The Food and Drink of the West Country – Part 2

One of the West Country’s famous agricultural out puts that is a bi-product of the dairy industry is cheese. Some of the cheeses in the region are so famous that they have had to have their names protected as farmers around the world have tried to recreate the taste of the cheeses that have been produced for centuries in the area.

Cheddar Cheese being tested for its quality

This is certainly the case with Cheddar Cheese which originated in the North Somerset village of Cheddar. It is consumed by 51% of the nation’s population making it the most popular cheese in the country. Only cheese that uses milk from the fields of Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall can use the term “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar”.

The cheese has been made in Cheddar from around the 12th century. It was left to mature in the surrounding caves where the moisture of the surroundings gave the cheeses their special taste. The cheese makers were also at the forefront of modernizing the cheese making techniques in the 19th century, when the Somerset dairyman Joseph Harding was renowned for his technical innovation and hygiene.

There are other famous cheese from the region. If Cheddar is seen as a global cheese, the cheeses that are produced on a local scale cannot be better represented than by Ticklemoor Cheese from Totnes in Devon. Using the local milk, the head cheese maker Robin Croydon has produced three cheeses and the textures can change from season to season with the differences in the types of grass that the cows consume.

The Devon Blue, The Beenleigh Blue and the Harbourne Blue have all won national awards and they have proved so popular that varieties of the cheese are being made in North America, Argentina and South Africa. Devon is home to quite a few different foods. For a start there are a number of different breeds of cattle that are linked to the county. Red Ruby Devon Cattle and South Devon Cattle are both farmed intensively in the region. So too are Greyface Dartmoor and Devon Closewool which are both breeds of sheep.

Cornwall’s cuisine is famed by the Cornish Pasty, a savory baked dish made from pastry. It was first introduced for the tin miners to be able to eat their lunch down the pit without having to wash their hands. They were able to use the crust to hold the pasty and at the end of the meal the crust would be discarded with. In the 19th century many Cornish miners went to North America to find their fortunes. They took their pasty with them, and it is now a popular food in Nevada especially around the mining towns.

Cornwall is surrounded by water, so they have produced many popular fish dishes and one such popular item is Stargazy pie. This consists of potatoes, eggs and sardines (or pilchards) being covered with a pastry crust. The heads of the fish protrude from the pastry, which allows the oils of the fish to run back into the sauce.

Afternoon tea in the West Country

Cream that is heated and cooled produces clotted cream that is famous in Devon and Cornwall. It arrives in a solid form and plays an important part in the West Country cream tea. Served on warm scones with Jam it is a popular afternoon treat for those visitors to the region.

The scones that are served in Devon and Cornwall are slightly different from each other. In Devon the scone is a traditional one that has been cut in half. This differs from the ‘Cornish Splits’ that are served in the neighboring county. These are yeast-leavened bread rolls which are split while they are still warm.

Foods from the West Country are eaten all over the world.