Wiltshire Traditional Foods


Lardy cake! - flckr - insideology


The cityscape of modern Swindon differs little from that of a century ago, save for the absence of drovers herding cattle to the huge central market. Wiltshire's largest borough town was, in its heyday, a bustling market  town best known for the proliferation of cured meats, pork belly and sausage varieties on offer. In fact, the town's very name is said to derive from 'Swine-toun', the land upon which pigs have grazed for nearly 1,000 years. Surrounded by oak forests and low moorland, Swindon's environs provided locally farmed swine with  a variegated and organic pig diet, lending to a succulent, textured ham of exceptionally strong flavour. Although a growing industrial county, Wiltshire never quite caught up with the likes of Staffordshire and the North. Much of the populace lived in adverse poverty, necessitating a 'make do and extend' approach to food. Fattening dishes such as Bacon Fraise and Lardy Cake were the staple of agricultural workers during the 19th Century and although produced, Wiltshire Cheese made little of an impact until the 1960's. Of the many Wiltshire dishes that have slipped into obscurity down the years, some are just too wholesome to quite let go. For a great selection of cottages in Wiltshire.

Wiltshire Bacon
Not a wholesome dish per se, yet no rundown of Wiltshire's traditional foods would be complete without mention of the Calne cured specialty. Prior to the 1840's, few curers had experimented with alternative ways to preserve their bacon, preferring the cheaper method of using salt to prolong the life of their meat. With a proud heritage and local reputation, the Harris curers of Calne strove to find alternative methods that would both refine and preserve the longevity of meat, without impacting on its flavour. Master Harris left the bacon to brine for 3-4 days before adding sugar or molasses to prolong its shelf life, then left it to hang in his ice-packed attic over the winter months. Stronger, sweeter and naturally salted, Harris' cured bacon became an instant hit!

Lardy Cake
With an unfathomable number of calories per slice and more sugar than you're average Victoria Sponge, Lardy Cake is best avoided if you're keeping an eye on your waistline. Times were tough in 18th Century Wiltshire and high fat, cheap baking was the only way agricultural workers could maintain energy for long shifts out on the furrowed land. Lardy Cake is made from a relatively simple bread dough, filled with pockets of lard, dried fruits and sugar rolled into the mixture, then seasoned with all spice or cinnamon for flavour. Kneaded into a deep oven dish, it was baked until golden brown and often eaten hot, perhaps with a dash of milk if the family could afford it.

Devizes Pie
Not every customary Wiltshire recipe will fire you up with the urge to bake and as much can be said of Devizes Pie. Lost to the history books for over 560 years, this 15th Century offal concoction was revived during the 1960's for a period, then again in 2006 at the Devizes Food and Drink Festival. Its hardly surprising the recipe never took off, since the ingredients call for a calf's head, tongue, cold bacon and hard-boiled eggs. Layered into a pie dish, the offal was typically seasoned with a great many herbs and spices to disguise the discernible lumps of brain matter. Devizes Pie was traditionally encased within huff paste, a pastry blend of flour, suet and boiling water that when baked, would create a tough, chewy outer shell.

Urchfont Mustard
Brainchild of food tester William Tulberg, Urchfont Mustard is a relatively modern innovation, influenced by the writings of Surrey-born diarist John Evelyn. Seeking a spicy relish to bring out the flavour in pork sausages and pies, Tulberg toyed with various recipes before settling on a chilli-based wholegrain recipe, enhanced with vinegar. Made from organic, local ingredients Tracklement Urchfont Mustard became an overnight success. The name derives from the tiny village of Urchfont near Malmesbury, where it was first introduced.

AT 14:37


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