9 September 2015
With British Food Fortnight kicking off on 19th September, it’s only right to take a look at some of the traditional dishes that have come out of Wiltshire.
Pork has been synonymous with Wiltshire since Saxon times when people settled on the downs to raise their pigs. Swindon originally means ‘Swine Down’ or ‘Pig hill’ and everyone kept pigs - pork, bacon and offal were all consumed. Ham and bacon were generally reserved for the gentry but most cooked any part of the pig possible – Chitterlings were small intestines turned inside out, cleaned, plaited and boiled, blood was used to make black puddings and Bacon Fraise which dates back to the 15th Century was bacon fried with egg batter and then baked.
Two dishes stand out as the most famous of Wiltshire’s cuisine – and while one is savoury and the other sweet they both use pork products. Wiltshire Ham is probably the most famous; its cure has molasses added to give its sweet taste. However Lardy Cake (pictured) which used bread dough, sugar and dried fruit traditionally used fat left over from the pork.
There are also Wiltshire pork pies and Bradenham hams – the cure of molasses, coriander and juniper berries is said to be created by Lord Bradenham. The joint is left to mature for at least six months until it has a black exterior. Devizes pie has pork, lamb, veal, tongue and vegetables and Wiltshire Market Day Dinner was a traditional west-country slow cooked casserole made of pork, onions, apple, potato and sage.
Calne is famous for the Harris pork curing factory which was started in the second half of the 18th Century but shut in the early 1980s and provided much of the employment in Calne during that period. It was started because pigs reared in Ireland were landed at Bristol and then herded to Smithfields in London via Calne.
But it’s not all about pork. Wiltshire Cheese was popular in the 18th Century but dairy farmers stopped making it when milk was more profitable. The Wiltshire Cheese loaf has a mellow flavour, slightly nutty and with a crumbly texture. Wiltshire tatties are baked potatoes filled with chicken, butter and lemon mixture with nutmeg.
And there are plenty of sweet things on offer. Marlborough Cake is a traditional sponge flavoured with caraway seeds and baked and dredged with sugar. There’s the Druid Cake, Wiltshire buttermilk cake and Malmesbury pudding, a form of well pudding, suet pastry filled with a butter, sugar and lemon mixture. Many will know the Mop fairs – a favourite at these was Wiltshire Fairings; similar to a flat brandy snap they were made from syrup sugar and butter and flavoured with spices.
Today there is a wealth of food and drink available in Wiltshire. British Food Fornight is the biggest annual, national celebration of British food and drink. It promotes the benefits of buying and eating from our home produced British larder so be sure to get out and enjoy all the food and drink Wiltshire has to offer. Eat and cook regional food, eat in local pubs and restaurants and buy from local shops.