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MONDAY, 7TH JANUARY 2013
Shropshire Traditional Foods


Gingerbread gang - flckr - dichohecho

Few counties can compare with Shropshire for the sheer variety and superiority of its organic produce. A predominantly agricultural region up until the 18th Century, Shropshire's food culture continues to be dominated by regionally cultivated crops, fruit and cattle - many of which are unique to the county. Birthplace of the 'real ale revival', Shropshire is one of those few counties working hard to preserve its food and drink heritage.

The decline of local breweries from the mid to late 20th Century appeared to spell the end for ale production in the region, however, the survival of Three Tuns at Bishops Castle (brewing since 1642) prompted many locals to invest in their local heritage and revive Shropshire's beer culture once more. Today, there are over sixteen breweries scattered throughout the region manufacturing for both local and national public houses. Shropshire's renown for alcoholic beverages isn't limited to 17th Century ales; in fact, many of the region's dishes are influenced by port and wines too! Discover our pick of the county's best loved traditional foods - real ale optional.

 

Market Drayton Gingerbread
The history of Market Drayton and gingerbread have been intertwined for as long as anyone can remember. The earliest known recipe in the region is thought to have been introduced during the Crusades, around 1390. According to local business records, Gingerbrede was sold by various confectioner's along the High Street throughout the 16th Century. Local maltster Roland Lateward is modernly accredited as the first 'gingerbread baker' of Market Drayton, however his legacy was short lived after Richard Billington began production in 1817. His recipe famously included copious amounts of rum and became popular as a snack dipped in port after dinner. Billington's thrived for over 100 years until the outbreak of war forced the closure of the company. Billington's Celebrated Gingerbread was revived following the post-war sale of the business and today, continues to be produced to demand in Yorkshire.

 

Shropshire Fidget Pie
Of the many strange monikers for local dishes, Fidget Pie is considered one of the most bizarre. Traditional Shropshire Fidget Pies comprised of cured or boiled pig meat, such as gammon, onion, potatoes and apple. Rural families would also include cider to enhance its fruitiness. The recipe is thought to date back to the 14th Century and the name itself derives from the fact Fidget Pies were five-sided - extremely handy for farmers, who rarely had time to stop for a full meal. Fidget Pies can still be found within popular tourist towns such as Ludlow, although they're more commonly 'muffin-shaped' with a delicious swirl of piped, golden-brown potato crowning the top.

 

Soul Cakes (Harcakes)
Mexico's flamboyant celebrations for Dias de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) are considered a bizarre and sometimes macabre way of remembering the dead, but did you know medieval England had a number of similar traditions? Before Halloween became just another date in the retail calendar, it was traditionally celebrated on November 2nd (All Saint's Day). All Saint's Day was a time for the living to remember the dead and free the souls of loved ones lost in Purgatory. The consumption of Soul Cakes was said to represent the release of another soul from Purgatory. Typically, these cakes were humble round pastry cases filled with a combination of dried fruits, then lightly spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. A simple cross was etched into the surface. In many households, it was customary to leave out a selection of Soul Cakes on All Hallow's Eve for departed loved ones and present them to neighbours the following day.

 

Shropshire Blue Cheese
The majority of blue cheeses on the market today are modern recipes derived from old classics. Born in the 1970's, Shropshire Blue quickly gained a cult following in the UK for its sharp flavour and slightly sour aftertaste. Contrary to popular belief, Shropshire Blue does not originate from Ludlow where it is produced today. The recipe was originally dubbed 'Blue Stuart'; first developed by Scottish cheesemaker Andy Williamson of Inverness. Bright orange in appearance, the colour of Shropshire Blue is achieved by combining vegetable rennet with annatto - a peppery food colouring which originates from Brazil. High in fat and generally creamier than Stilton, it's ideal for using in cheesecakes or flans!

 

 

POSTED BY: RACHAEL
AT 16:04

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