There's more to food in Yorkshire than Wensleydale and the eponymous pudding. Our guide reveals the top 10 things to eat when visiting the great green north.
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Yorkshire's dales, moors and shores are fertile ground for some of the country's finest food and produce. From Yorkshire curd tart, black pudding and IPA ale, to pheasant, dressed crab and smoked fish, we round up the tastiest dishes, best ingredients and beautiful artisan goodies.
Probably the most renowned of all the food Yorkshire has to offer, regional Yorkshire pudding championships see some of the county’s best chefs competing, so standards are generally high. As well as being a great accompaniment to a roast dinner, you can eat them as a starter filled with all manner of things, or with jam and cream to round off a meal. And any Yorkshireman worth their salt will be eating them on Yorkshire Day (1 August). Yorkshire pudding is equally at home in larger form, filled to the brim with onion gravy and top notch sausages as a pub lunch. Beware the frozen alternative and insist on a freshly made pudding. Try the many recipes for the “best” Yorkshire pudding until you find the one that works best for you. You may want to have a go at making our top-rated recipe.
Wallace and Gromit raised the profile of Wensleydale as a great cheese to be served young, but there’s more to it than that. Mature whites and blues are on offer too – and yes, it really is perfect with Christmas cake. You could also look beyond Wensleydale to discover more than 85 brilliant Yorkshire artisan cheeses made with cow, sheep and goat milk. If you resolved to try one Yorkshire cheese a day, you would still be discovering a new cheese some three months later. World class Courtyard Dairy, near the market town of Settle, is a great place to start your discovery of Yorkshire cheese.
Yorkshire is home to a vast array of artisanal drinks, a selection of which can be found in every discerning bar across the county. Locally brewed beer is a Yorkshire staple, whether it's a traditional bitter or a heavily hopped IPA. Look out for bottled or canned beers to take home. Cider is emerging as another Yorkshire favourite with a range of styles and strengths. Even wine is being produced commercially at 10 vineyards with championship sparkling wines worth a detour. Artisan gin is firmly established and Yorkshire distilled whisky is maturing nicely. You can visit a distillery in the village of Hunmanby to see how it is made.
When the New Year festivities are over in Yorkshire, attention turns to forced rhubarb. The forcing sheds are mostly found in a small area known as the ‘rhubarb triangle’, roughly defined as the triangular patch between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford. Visit a rhubarb festival in Wakefield and step into a forcing shed to literally hear it grow – it creaks eerily in the dark. Yorkshire chefs have many ways, both savoury and sweet, of using the tender pink stems, beyond the humble rhubarb crumble. The local stuff is available from independent greengrocers and selectively in supermarkets, which too often sell imported rhubarb. Also look out for Rhucello, Yorkshire’s versatile rhubarb liqueur.
Yorkshire produces the finest asparagus in the world – a refrain often to be heard in the county. Admittedly, though, once you’ve tasted freshly cut and simply presented Yorkshire asparagus, you’ll never go back to the imported, out of season variety. Larger acreage is being developed to satisfy the growing needs of both chefs and home cooks. For unforced Yorkshire asparagus, the season runs from mid-April or early May, dependent on when the soil warms up sufficiently to launch growth of these tender stems through to Midsummer’s Day. Dropping in on a local grower in anticipation of the first crop brings a real sense of excitement for genuine foodies.
Yorkshire smokehouses are thriving and offer a far wider range than the humble kipper as a takeaway from the seaside. Try kippers from several smokehouses to discover the degree of smoke that best suits your palate. Our favourite is from Justin Staal’s smokehouse. Look out for a stunning array of Yorkshire smoked salmon, haddock, trout, chicken, duck and venison at independent retailers and on restaurant menus across the county. An increasing number of restaurants have their own smokers with chefs taking the art of smoking fish and meat in different directions, with varying intensities, to suit their individual styles of cooking.
In Britain, few recognise home-produced charcuterie, thinking of it as a continental art. Yorkshire’s heritage of bacon, sausage and black pudding is widely available as a great Yorkshire breakfast in the best B&Bs and hotels. Now Yorkshire has a growing portfolio of chorizo, salami, biltong and cured meats to rival the best charcuterie on the continent, with independent butchers, delis and farm shops a good source of great Yorkshire produce. Standout local charcuterie is to be found at Lishman’s of Ilkley, a butcher shop that has, this year, been awarded the full three stars by the Great Taste Awards for its Yorkshire chorizo.
Yorkshire curd tart
Centuries-old recipes and modern adaptations all use a shortcrust pastry case and curd cheese, with spicing and fruit added to the taste of the baker and their customers. Nutmeg is widely used, as is fruit, with the humble currant holding sway. Some traditional recipes include rosewater. Experiment at home with homemade curd cheese using our recipe to recreate a taste of a great northern tradition. Artisan bakers are the best source of authentic curd tarts, many of which also supply local farm shops and cafés. Betty’s is a Yorkshire institution that, some say, serves the best. If you can't get there, they also offer a mail order service.
Without sheep, Yorkshire’s lush dales and moors would look very different; the landscape is partly shaped by the animals that have grazed there for hundreds of years. While many female lambs are sold as breeding stock, you can find locally sourced lamb in butcher shops and on restaurant menus. Don’t go for spring lamb but seek out meat that has had time to mature for a fuller, rounder taste. When a lamb turns one, the meat is then sold as hogget and is well worth a try. It’s available by mail order if you can’t find a local source. Mutton is commonly found on the menus of local South Asian restaurants.
Crab and lobster
Bridlington marks the epicentre of Yorkshire’s crab and lobster fishery with landings at the top of the European league table. Yorkshire crab is at its best when freshly boiled and dressed by an expert. Look out for dressed crab in venues along the Yorkshire coast or, inland, at independent fishmongers. Live Yorkshire lobster is in great demand and mostly exported to Europe. Again, check out local restaurant menus or better still, make friends with a fisherman to purchase. At home, purge them in salt water (35 grams of salt per litre) to empty the gut and boil them.
North Yorkshire’s feathered game is first class and widely available during the grouse, partridge and pheasant shooting seasons (largely over the winter months of October, November, December and January), which attract the same shooters year after year. Indeed, it is estimated the added value to the Yorkshire economy is as high as £120 million annually. As with sheep farming, game conservation has also shaped the upland landscape across the county. While you will find game dishes on many restaurant menus, check out butchers' and farm shops for dressed birds. Feathered game is cheap to buy, freezes well and is ideal for home cooking, roasted for a Sunday lunch or midweek supper.
Sue Nelson has been voted Yorkshire’s food hero by her peers. She champions the county’s produce through guided gourmet trails, pop-up suppers and demonstrations. For further info visit: yorkshirefoodfinder.org and yorkshire.com
If you enjoyed this taste of Yorkshire, see our guide to the best places to eat in Northumberland.
Visit our travel section for more food inspiration from across the British Isles, Europe and beyond.
Image credits: Michael McKinstry for Yorkshire Food Finder