Happy Yorkshire Day Everyone!
What’s the best way to celebrate it, if not with a food tour of the region?
Let’s start with a great classic from the Olde Sweet Shoppe up and down the country: liquorish. After the Battle of Hastings and the Norman conquest of England, this part of the country went through a very rough time: the people of the North tried to rebel against the Normans, but all they obtained was an exacerbation of Norman ruling over the area, that scorched crops, domestic animals and farming tools, bringing the population on its knees. In response to this, a lot of abbeys and priories were born to help the suffering population. And that’ liquorish was created in 1500s. The first UK liquorice crop ever recorded was apparently grown in the market town of Pontefract. It had been brought from the Middle East as a medical plant by Crusaders and the rich Yorkshire soil provided the perfect conditions to grow it. It was mostly used in cough syrups, given its anti-inflammatory effects, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that it was transformed into a popular sweet.
Another famous and popular product is Wensleydale cheese, in the historical Wensleydale Creamery based in Hawes. Cheese-making in the area dates back to 1150, when French Cistercian monks settled in the area and started making cheese using their own traditional recipes. During the reign of Henry VIII and the dissolution of monasteries, the recipe was passed to farmers’ wives, but it wasn’t until 1897, when a local merchant, Edward Chapman, started to purchase milk from local farms and began the production of Wensleydale on a larger scale.
Another typical product of the region is forced rhubarb. In the small nine square-mile triangle area between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell, also known as the “Rhubarb triangle”, winter rhubarb has been grown since 1877. Forced rhubarb is grown in caves, where the crop is kept away from direct light, keeping the pale stalks softer and sweeter than the ones harvested during the summer.
Two of the most popular and traditional desserts of Yorkshire are parkin and Yorkshire custard tart. Parkin is a gingerbread cake made with oatmeal and treacle. Whilst baked as a hard cake, once it’s rested it becomes a soft and juicy cake. It became popular in 1728 and since then it’s been produced following the traditional recipe. The Yorkshire custard tart was traditionally backed for Whitsuntide by many local villages for the local fair days, but since 1750s it became largely popular and an all-year round product. It’s made using Yorkshire curd cheese and finished with a touch of lemon curd. Both pair up wonderfully with a cuppa of Yorkshire tea, of course!
The jewel of the crown, though, is the Yorkshire pudding, the staple of any Sunday Roast deserving this name! The batter is made with flour, eggs and milk and traditionally cooked in a piping hot tin greased with beef dripping. As much as we are used to the mini version of it, in Yorkshire they make them so big that a whole roast dinner fits inside. Dig in!
To conclude our culinary tour of Yorkshire, a couple of interesting facts.
Joseph Priestly, the man behind the discovery of oxygen, is also behind the cre
ation of carbonated water. Mr Priestly hoisted a bowl of water above a beer vat in 1767, the first time anyone has deliberately created sparkling water.
Yorkshire is home of KitKat too. Henry Isaac Rowntree built a massive factory in York
in the 19th Century to cope with the increasing demand for his delicious chocolates across the country. It wasn't until 1935 that the first KitKat was made though - and even then it was known by a different name - the Rowntree's Chocolate Crisp.
To end on a high, a trip down memory lane: Party Rings! A classic of children's party,
Party Rings provide an immediate dose of nostalgia to anyone who grew up in the 80s or 90s. They were first introduced by Batley-based Fox’s Biscuits in 1983 and although they are not quite as popular as they once were, you can still find them in supermarkets.
So, may it be Yorkshire pudding, parkin, sparkling water or Wensleydale cheese,
choose your weapon and enjoy Yorkshire day!