The lowdown on Yorkshire's Food Festivals
PUBLISHED: 15:27 01 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:48 20 February 2013
Our food and drink consultant Annie Stirk taste tests the county's food festivals
We love our food in Yorkshire. From our rhubarb to our fat rascals, we cant resist any opportunity to make a song and dance about our home-grown delights.
Which is probably why we now have a pleasantly stuffed schedule of shows and festivals that promote the countys diverse and delicious range of foods, attracting crowds of foodies wanting to meet the producers who make, grow and breed it.
Wakefields Festival of Food, Drink and Rhubarb, Malton Food Lovers Festival, Sheffield Festival, Leeds Loves Food and the respective food and drink festivals of Huddersfield, Holmfirth and York are just a few of the gourmet extravaganzas tickling our tastebuds every year.
People are much more interested in provenance, food miles and animal welfare, said Judy Thompson of Yorkshire Agricultural Society, which organises the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Locally produced food ticks all these boxes and it often tastes so much better.
Food shows offer something for all the senses: visitors can see and smell the food, speak to the producers and watch chefs cooking with it.
The range of foods is remarkable, with handmade chutneys, cakes, pies and pastries alongside home-reared beef, lamb, pork and poultry all washed down with local real ales and ciders.
The array of Yorkshire cheeses at our show is staggering, said Judy. From 300 entries in 2002, this year marks the 10th anniversary of our Great Yorkshire Cheese & Dairy Show, and weve had more than 1,000 entries.
Festivals often showcase more unusual delicacies too. Richard Eyre of Sheffield Food Festival said they aim to encourage people to try something new.
Restaurants, cafes and bars across the city held special tasting menus this year and there was a chance for people to milk a life size model cow, as well as gorilla gardening in unexpected green spaces and a foraging workshop looking at food growing naturally across the city, he added.
In the same vein, at this months Tockwith Show, Wendy Keefer, known as the Yorkshire Forager, will offer sauces made from hand-picked hedgerow hawthorn berries, and visitors to Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival will be able to tuck into kangaroo meat, chili jam ice cream and cakes made with courgette, lime, dandelion and burdock.
There will be sushi at York Festival of Food and Drink in September alongside raspberry and licorice jam (although you might not like to try them in quick succession).
Visitors can taste things without having to buy first, so it allows them to try things they maybe wouldnt have, said York festival director and chef Michael Hjort.
Cathy Burger, Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival manager, agreed: Hearing the story behind a piece of cheese or a jar of chutney makes you want to try it all the more. And cookery demonstrations encourage people to be more adventurous as they give an insight into how chefs think and how they plan their recipe.
But its not just about trying and tasting. Festivals do offer a complete foodie experience.
Its a great day out for all the family, said Sandy Carter of Dales Festival of Food and Drink. Visitors can learn traditional rural skills like dry stone walling, cheese making and wood turning. Similarly, at Huddersfield Festival, children can take part in chocolate workshops, learn circus skills and even how to churn butter and grind mill flour.
And how about a spot of music with your munchies? At the Galtres Festival this month, music fans can tuck into festival food thats sourced from the local area.
We insist all the catering at the festival is by local caterers or uses ingredients sourced locally, said organiser James Houston. We offer 100 different types of ale, lager, cider, perry, stout, and mild, delivered from North Yorkshires 20 or so independent breweries. The food and drink are very much part of the festival celebration its not just about feeding and watering the masses.
Ultimately, food festivals provide a lifeline for local producers, allowing them to showcase their wares, catch up with old customers and meet new ones.
Councillor Helen Mirfin-Boukouris of Sheffield Food Festival, said the benefits are far-reaching: The festival is a brilliant way to get people in Sheffield thinking about food, and the many ways it impacts on our lives.
The food industry in Sheffield alone is worth about 1 billion, and the growing, producing and importing of the food we eat accounts for 30 per cent of the UKs carbon footprint. So its important to help sustain the industry by bringing together producers and food businesses and shout about the importance of local food.
The Dales Festival was set up to help improve rural life following the foot and mouth crisis in 2001. It now attracts more than 10,000 people to a town with only 2,000 residents. But it still has a way to go to reach the 150,000-strong crowds that flock to the historic city of York every September.
Yorkshire now rivals the rest of the world when it comes to culinary standards, said Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire. We have the most Michelin-starred restaurants outside of London as well as great Yorkshire chefs like Marco Pierre White and James Martin.
Our food and drink profile has never been higher and we look forward to seeing it continue to grow.
Tasty treats Tockwith Show, Cattal Moor Lane, tockwithshow.org.uk, August 6th. Tuck in to: preserves, cheeses, rapeseed oil, pork pies, fruit wines and wonderful pork dishes from Ladies in Pigs.
Huddersfield Food & Drink Festival, St Georges Square, huddersfield-htcpl.co.uk, August 11th to 14th. Tuck in to: pasties, pies, Grumpy Mule coffee, chocolate, ice-cream, locally brewed real ale and freshly made cocktails.
Galtres Festival, Crayke, galtresfestival.org.uk, August 26th to 28th. Tuck in to: 100+ real ales, lagers, ciders and perries.
York Festival of Food and Drink, throughout the city, yorkfoodfestival.com, September 16th to 25th. Tuck in to: venison grills, organic veg, handmade chocolates using local flavours such as York Brewerys Ghost Ale or Yorkshire Blue cheese.
Holmfirth Food and Drink Festival, throughout the town, holmfirthfoodanddrinkfestival.com, September 24th and 25th. Tuck in to: fresh and dried mushrooms, non-alcoholic ginger wine, fresh fish and seafood, Seriously Good Parkin Pudding and hand-raised pigeon and pea pies.
The print version of this article appeared in the August 2011 issue of Yorkshire Life
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