The foodies' map of Britain
From Arbroath smokies to Jersey Royals, 41 of our products have now made it onto the EU's list of protected foods. Miranda Vinall celebrates our national treasures
Thursday 01 April 2010
Just last February, Yorkshire's forced rhubarb became the 41st British product to join the likes of champagne and Parmesan on the coveted European 'A' list for food. We have a long way to go to catch up with our brethren across the pond, namely the French and Italians, who between them have more than 300 goodies on the list. But it's not bad going for a nation that is still pulling itself out of years of low food self-esteem.
And there are more protected foods in the pipeline. Thanks to the determination of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and a coalition of British producers, the UK Protected Food Names Association, about 40 more British products are under consideration for a protected food name stamp. In particular, Melton Mowbray Pork Pie's recent success in achieving protected food status has inspired Cumberland sausages, Cornish pasties, and even the humble Yorkshire pudding to apply.
To gain protected status, foods must be linked to a specific geographical area or be made to a traditional recipe. For example, only cheese made in Italy's Parma region can be called Parmesan, and Single Gloucester can only be made in Gloucestershire. 'Yorkshire Feta' had to rebrand itself as 'Fine Fettle Yorkshire Cheese' after Greece's Feta cheese won protected status. Protected-name status is highly sought after as it provides legal protection for a food's name, guaranteeing the quality and authenticity of the product. It also boosts tourism in the area of origin and can mean extra financial backing from Brussels to champion products. The scheme, set up by the European Commission (EC) in 1993, is modelled on the French appellation d'origine contrôlée system, which controls wine names.
It has three ratings. Foods can obtain: a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), if completely produced or processed in one area; or a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), a less rigid classification which means at least one stage of production is linked to the area; or a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG), for foods which aren't geographically named but have distinctive historic or customary features.
It's not easy to join Europe's crème de la crème. The Cornish pasty has been deemed too generic, which doesn't bode well for the Yorkshire pudding either. It is difficult to tie these products to one region when they are already whipped up in kitchens across the UK. If the Yorkshire puds were was given the EC stamp, restaurateurs outside of Yorkshire might not be allowed write 'Yorkshire pudding' on their menus. However, 41 UK products have cut the mustard so far, thanks to their unique heritage and character.
FRUIT, VEGETABLES AND CEREALS
Jersey Royal potatoes
No other source of Jersey Royals exists outside that Channel Island itself, where seaweed is used as a fertiliser to enhance its flavour. It's characterised as a kidney potato, with yellow skin and a firm texture once cooked.
Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb
Grown in sheds, and harvested by candlelight to preserve younger shoots, in the 'Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle' between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield. This strain of rhubarb, known for its sweet, fragrant flavour and bright pink colouring, is Britain's latest addition to the EC protected names list.
Cornish Clotted Cream
Traditionally served with jam on scones, clotted cream has been made for more than 100 years, originally to extend the life of butter or milk. The thick, yellowish cream is made by heating unpasteurised cow's milk (from Cornwall, of course) and then leaving it in shallow pans for several hours, allowing the cream content to rise to the surface and form clots.
Melton Mowbray Pork Pie
Named after the Leicestershire town, Melton pies were popular among late 19th-century fox-hunters. Their irregular shape due to their hand-formed crust helped gain them food name protection.
FRESH MEAT AND OFFAL
Exclusive use of Aberdeen Angus, Shorthorn and Blue Grey cows, as well as the geology and climate of these Scottish islands, gives a distinctive flavour.
Including the rare North Ronaldsay lamb, a much smaller animal which lives entirely on the seashore and slurps a seaweed diet, this is the first choice of top restaurant chefs.
Thanks to traditional feeding systems and a high reputation in the UK since the 19th century, Scotch beef will be famed for its quality 'til the cows come home.
The area includes the Scottish mainland, the islands off the West Coast, and the Orkney and Shetland Isles. The meat's quality reflects extensive grazing on Scottish pastures.
The lambs are produced from either Shetland or Shetland Cheviot ewes, and are slaughtered within 12 months of birth.
A product of the traditional extensive farming practices using expertise built up over generations, the hardy Welsh breeds flourish in that country's mild, wet climate and abundant natural grassland.
Sheep herding still plays an important role in the Welsh rural economy, and historical references date back to the 14th century. Farms are often family-owned and utilise a great deal of inherited expertise.
I sle of Man Manx Loaghtan Lamb
Thought to be descended from a breed introduced in pre-historic times, either from the flocks of the native Celts or alternatively from flocks brought to the island by the Vikings.
Traditional Farmfresh Turkey
These English turkeys are slow-grown to a minimum age of 18 weeks, dry plucked and hung by both legs for seven to 14 days to ensure the tenderness of the meat and a strong, or 'gamey', flavour.
FISH, MOLLUSCS AND CRUSTACEANS
Haddock smoked in a manner dating back to the Scandinavians who invaded the Scottish coast 1,000 years ago. Smoked in half a whisky barrel, with the smoke trapped under hessian sacking.
Scottish farmed Salmon
Silver in colour and with an iridescent appearance, the salmon is farmed in pure coastal waters and sheltered lochs, with expert husbandry skills ensuring that each salmon achieves and maintains prime condition.
Oysters have been produced in this area of Kent since Roman times. They're renowned for their fat and succulent meat.
Traditional Grimsby Smoked Fish
Fillets of cod and haddock, cold-smoked in Grimsby, North-east Lincolnshire, which has been synonymous with fish smoking since 1850.
Caught up to six miles off the Cornish coast, these sardines, colloquially called pilchards, are landed and processed in the county of Cornwall.
Three counties, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, produce apple and pear (perry) ciders with PGI status. The hand-picked fruits must be grown in the area from local varieties. Their juice is then fermented naturally or up to three months.
Gloucestershire cider and Gloucestershire perry
Only juicy apples and pears grown locally are used. Perry tends to be lighter and sweeter than apple cider.
Herefordshire cider and perry
Apples and pears from Herefordshire only need apply.
Worcestershire cider and perry
Apples and pears from Worcestershire.
Including the likes of Spitfire, Kentish ale uses only local hops and barley, and water from the brewery's own artesian well. The brewing process hasn't changed since hops were added some 600 years ago.
Kentish strong ale
Bishop's Finger strong ale is called after an unusual finger-shaped signpost, which still stands and which once pointed pilgrims on their way, as they travelled through Kent to the town of Canterbury.
Hailing from Oakham in the East Midlands, Rutland's bitter can only be made using the local Langham well water, which is said to give the beer its unique character.
Beacon Fell traditional Lancashire cheese
The cheese is only made with milk from the Fylde or Preston areas, and using special production methods.
A bit like Camembert, but thicker in texture and more flowery in flavour, this Scottish cheese is from Bonchester Bridge, Roxburghshire.
Cousin of the blue Stilton, this cheese is produced in and around Buxton with cow's milk from Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire. A lightly veined, russet-coloured cheese.
Dorset Blue cheese
A favourite of Thomas Hardy's, the Dorset blue vinney, so called for its blue veins, was extinct for 10 years but the old recipe was revived in the Eighties by Woodbridge Farm in Dorset.
From the valley of the River Dove on the Derbyshire-Staffordshire border, it has a relatively mild flavour for a blue cheese. Unusually, it's brine-dipped instead of being dry-salted.
Exmoor Blue Cheese
This farmhouse blue cheese is made from unpasteurised Jersey cow's milk at Willet Farm, near Taunton, Somerset.
Churned from milk of the rare Old Gloucester breed of cows, it's more expensive that Double Gloucester.
Swaledale cheese and Swaledale Ewe's cheese
The particular herbs and grasses that the animals graze on are what give the Swaledale cheeses, from the town of Richmond, Yorkshire, their distinctive flavour. Handmade to a recipe known to but a few people, Swaledale has been a Yorkshire secret for generations.
Smooth, salty and tangy, this cylindrical cheese hails from the borderlands of England and Scotland, 90km from the summit of Peel Fell in the Cheviot Hills.
Stilton, Blue and White
To qualify as the real thing, Stilton cheese oddly enough cannot nowadays be made in the Cambridgeshire village that gave it its name, but only in the three permitted counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
West Country farmhouse Cheddar cheese
Cheddar is widely imitated across the world and has been produced since at least the 12th century. Originated in the town of Cheddar, Somerset.
The cow's diet is again to thank for the strong identity of this white, crumbly cheese. Grass grown on rich Staffordshire soil, and a little protein supplements, keep the cows well fed.
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