Time to dish up a Yorkshire food strategy

Shouting about Yorkshire’s fabulous food and drink from the dales, vales, moors and coastline that makes up this wonderful county of ours is what we do. It’s the Scarborough running through our stick of rock, the DNA of what Yorkshire Food Finder is all about. But when we started asking why there is no cohesive strategy that allows all those wonderful people rearing, growing, creating, baking cooking, distilling and brewing our incredible food and drink to speak with one voice about how wonderful Yorkshire’s produce really is, it looks like we might just have eased off the metaphoric lid of an exceedingly lively bottle of artisan beer.

For people have been telling us they agree there is no unifying approach that we can all get behind to put Yorkshire at the forefront of the nation’s – indeed, the international – culinary map. And yes, there might be a variety of organisations brimming with dedicated people doing admirable stuff for their members but we don’t speak as one or work together towards a common goal. Which surely is this: The food of Yorkshire is the food of Britain. God’s own bounty in God’s own county is a microcosm of all that is great about British food and drink.

As such, Yorkshire-produced food and drink needs to be at the forefront of thinking, not just for those living in the county, but those attracted to visit it from the UK and beyond and, more widely in international markets. Agriculture, food and hospitality – all of which are clearly inextricably entwined – are vital to the Yorkshire economy. We might make up only 10 per cent of the country’s population but we produce 20 per cent of the nation’s food, proof if any were needed how important food and drink is to our white rose balance of payments.

So what should we do and who needs to be involved? The likes of Welcome to Yorkshire has a vital role to play given its heavyweight presence on the world stage, knack of tapping into national and international funding streams and its perspicacious self-belief in achieving the impossible. Attracting the Tour de France when everyone said it couldn’t be done is surely testament to that.

Baca Juga : In pursuit of the pork pie

Deliciouslyorkshire seeks to promote Yorkshire food and drink by marketing its members’ activities, primarily through the press and social media and branded events at festivals and agricultural shows. And while it does offer help in finding technical services relating to new product development, accreditation and research, we reckon there should be scope to enhance this potentially influential role as well as it becoming an informed lobbyist on the food scene.

As an example, we should be addressing the iniquitous differences in the approach of environmental health services to the same food production risks. For why should a use-by date of just 15 days for smoked – and therefore preserved – food apply in one jurisdiction and 21 days apply elsewhere in Yorkshire when the risk is no different?

We need to acknowledge the role of agriculture on Yorkshire’s landscape and promote and support food production systems that conserve and enhance the environment. Centuries of sheep rearing in the Yorkshire Dales have created the beautiful panorama we see today that is loved and admired the world over.

Take a drive over the North York Moors and you can see quite clearly how management of the landscape has contributed to Yorkshire’s multi-million pound game industry – it’s not just a sport but also a significant contributor to the local food scene. Some calculate it’s worth up to £120 million a year if you take into account the jobs it provides and the knock-on benefits for hotels and restaurants, local retailers and businesses.

So the National Farmers’ Union, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and our national parks need to be part of the food strategy debate too. We also need to build a tangible shift in attitude towards local good quality food where it’s not seen as a niche but as the norm. There were those who said Meadowhall shopping centre’s decision to hold an artisan food market in one of its main malls this Easter was so off the wall as to be unworkable.

We know of one producer – out of the county, it has to be said – who refused to take part because they didn’t want to be associated with an event in a shopping centre because their customers were too discerning to be attracted by it. The footfall over the three-day event was some 230,000. Producers who did attend – many of them selling out – are clamouring for more of the same. And if that isn’t a way of bringing the message of local good quality food to a much wider audience and therefore creating it as the norm, then I don’t know what is.

So we need Yorkshire’s big businesses involved in the food strategy debate too, whether on the food manufacturing front or as a conduit for widening the impact of the quality food message. Add to that today’s desire for healthy living through a better understanding of the connections between food and health, and there’s a place at the debating table for our primary care trusts as well.

There’s also room at the table for our educators, for the food and drink industry is rich in a diverse range of skills that can and do provide a platform for training and development. The importance of food and its interconnectivity with other areas is a golden thread that should be running through all national and local government policies, so we need to be creating dialogue and raising awareness among policy makers of the inter-dependence of food, the economy, health and the environment.

We should ensure that our public sector policies are ‘food proofed’ – in other words that their impact on food production and consumption are considered, and that we actively identify and incorporate relevant food-related measures into national and local authority plans, policies and strategies. To put it bluntly and somewhat obviously, without food and drink we die. We also like it, derive enormous pleasure and social interaction because of it, and define our rich cultural diversity through it.

But how we operate our global and national food chains means that many communities are now distanced from the source of their food. The connection between a carton of milk or a plastic tray of mince on a supermarket shelf and the beasts that produced it is gossamer-like when it comes to awareness, acknowledgement or even understanding. While Yorkshire undoubtedly has a thriving, vibrant and quality food and drink scene we still don’t view it as the golden thread that’s woven into the fabric of all that we offer to make this county so great.

In pursuit of the pork pie

There are some folk down in Leicestershire who think their pork pies are better than any other. They’ve got some funny ideas in Melton Mowbray. For in reality it’s not where a pie comes from that makes it the best, but what’s in it that’s the true test. Of course, we in Yorkshire would argue that anything created within our borders knocks spots off whatever is conjured up outside them. Let’s face it – it’s in our DNA to do so whether we be talking about pies, beer, rhubarb or nutty slack.

History tells us that the first recorded recipe for a pork pie was in 1390 in the kitchen of King Richard II, the monarch whose actions led ultimately to War of Roses. Clearly, he has a lot to answer for given that the lands of the white and red roses are still prodding each other across the Pennines from time to time to this day.

Like so much of our traditional dishes, the British raised pork pie has its origins as a means of preserving meat. Unlike salting, curing and air drying, making pork pies was not intended to keep meat edible for some months, but was a way of extending the time over which pork could be eaten after a pig was slaughtered. And pretty much every rural family – even very poor folk – had a pig in the back yard as a source of food. The hot water pork pie crust – made from boiling lard in salted water and tipping it into flour – acted as a container for the meat so it stayed fresher longer or didn’t get damaged in transit. Think edible Tupperware and you’re pretty near the mark.

Hot water pastry is capable of being moulded into shapes which support their own weight, so is ideal as a pastry pot for a good dollop of pork and herb and spice flavourings. Traditionally pies are made by raising the pastry into a cylindrical shape with a firm base, which it’s possible to do by hand, with the aid of a cylindrical shape like a jam jar or ‘pie dolly’ a wooden mould with a smooth knob handle at the top.  The jar or dolly is removed when the pastry has reached the required height and is replaced with the pork and seasonings to taste. The pie is then sealed with a hot water pastry lid and a hole cut in the top.

Baca Juga : Bumper calendar for 2016

Centuries ago, once the pie was baked, clarified butter was poured through the hole and the raised crust ensured the butter didn’t run out. When solidified, the butter excluded the air from touching the meat, keeping it fresh for some time, especially as hot water pastry doesn’t go stale as quickly as other types. These days keeping meat fresh is not the primary purpose behind baking pork pies, so clarified butter is no longer used. But the meat still shrinks as it cooks, leaving a gap between the pastry and the meat filling which is why we now add a rich stock through the hole in the lid which sets into a firm jelly.

The spiritual home of the Yorkshire pork pie is the Old Bridge Inn at Rippondon near Halifax. Here, the Pork Pie Appreciation Society meets on regular Saturdays where members have over the last few years subjected more than 1,000 pie offerings to intense critical scrutiny. It’s not always been a good experience as they’re the first to admit – some pies, they say, have sent them into raptures while others have steered them speedily to the gents…

Members protect their pie connoisseurship with jealousy. And these are their rules for testing them: “First the pie is held up to the light, to admire its colour and structure. A good pie must not mind being probed, prodded and poked and, when sniffed, it must have an aromatic bouquet. “The pie is cut then into two and the experts speculate upon its provenance and appellation. First the crust is nibbled and savoured. The the wedge is bitten into, its jelly swilled from one side of the mouth to the other. The meat is masticated noisily to extract every subtle nuance of taste.

“Only in Yorkshire can a pork pie be properly appreciated. A baked box of pulverised pig body parts is not something to be scoffed at.” There is very definitely an art to the pork pie, and one who knows it as well as the best pork pie maker is Yorkshire artisan butcher Chris Moorby who works with us to deliver top notch charcuterie sessions as part of our Kitchen Social events.

Chris showed me how to make a traditional hand raised pie and the pictures here show the results. A bit of a pig’s ear if I’m honest, and work in progress I think, but great fun to make with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. As befits something as special as a pork pie… Here’s the recipe Chris gave me which I’ve tweaked a bit because after all, every pork pie maker wants to make the recipe their own. The quantities here make four 1lb pies.

Bumper calendar for 2016

We’ve been working hard to bring you a packed calendar of guided food trails, gourmet pop-up dinners and skills courses for 2016. And now Christmas will soon be upon us, take advantage of our 15% off seasonal discount offer during December and buy great presents for the foodies in your life.

Discover the gems of Yorkshire’s fabulous food scene with our unique behind-the-scenes guided tours. Taste the best produce God’s own county has to offer that is second to none. Eat your way round some of Yorkshire’s finest restaurants where there are more Michelin stars than any other county in Britain.

New for 2016 is our Dales trail where we take you on a journey to discover some of the fabulous food created in the Yorkshire Dales national park. Learn the secrets behind one of the world’s best cheesemongers, catch your own trout and cook it al fresco for lunch, and find out all about how top-notch charcuterie is made in the shadow of one of Yorkshire’s finest landscape wonders, Malham Cove.

The new year also sees the introduction of our brand new Brew hop trails where we take you on a tasting trail to tipple at some of Yorkshire’s finest artisan breweries. Join us on an East, West or North Yorkshire Brew hop – the choice is yours.

But wherever you go you’re in for a treat as Yorkshire has more than 1,000 artisan breweries for us to choose from. We’ve some old favourites on offer too – follow in the footsteps of those who’ve trodden our food trails with us to discover for yourself the hidden gourmet secrets of the wonderful Yorkshire Wolds, the North York Moors and the Yorkshire coast.

Or join us in the fabulously spacious Yorkshire Food Finder dining kitchen for a slap-up gourmet five-course dinner where the county’s finest produce takes centre stage with menus created by our founder Sue Nelson. Relax with friends or family, browse our library of more than 1,300 cookery books before dinner is served, and prepare to be blown away by dish after dish of Yorkshire’s culinary delights.

If being more hands on is your thing, join us on one of our skills courses to learn how to make your own charcuterie, or get creative with Yorkshire asparagus as the early summer days lengthen….

Let us be creative for you too – we can devise bespoke trails, courses and dinners that are perfect for team building, rewarding staff for a job well done, or get-away-from-it-all days out to put a spring back into the workplace step. So whatever your fancy come with us and have yourselves a brilliant Yorkshire in 2016!