Italy has 267 food or drink products with protected status under European law, France 217, Portugal 125. Britain has a measly 65. But this isn’t a continental conspiracy – it’s largely for want of applying. There are a huge number of great British food products worthy of the protection and kudos that these statuses bring, of which there are three levels:
- Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) means the product must be traditionally and entirely manufactured (prepared, processed and produced) within the specific region and thus acquire unique properties.
- Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) means the entire product must be traditionally and at least partially manufactured (prepared, processed or produced) within the specific region and thus acquire unique properties.
- Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG) is an exclusive right over the registered product name, which can then only be used by producers who conform to the registered production method and product specifications, which must have been consistent for a minimum of 30 years.
Here are olive’s top 10 contenders:
The Romney breed of sheep is widespread, but those reared on the salt marshes of Romney itself, in Kent, develop a unique flavour because of their being allowed to roam freely and graze on the natural grasses and samphire of the salt marsh. The exercise they get and their salty forage with no chemical fertilisers makes their meat more marbled than is usual in the breed, with a richer, sweeter and more delicate flavour.
Often held to be the best of their kind, in fact often referred to by fans just as ‘Crasters’, these kippers are prepared in smokehouses in and around the village of Craster in Northumberland, which is arguably also where they were first made. There are other contenders for the title of the best kipper, such as those made in Loch Fyne and the Isle of Man – but they should be protected too!
Not widely known even in the UK, the Forfar Bridie is a delicacy that deserves to be as famed as the Cornish Pasty, which already enjoys PGI status. Made with flaky pastry in the rest of Scotland, the Forfar original is made with shortcrust pastry and filled with minced steak, butter, beef suet, salt and pepper. Those that have minced onions have two holes poked in the top by the baker, those without, known as ‘plain’ have one hole. They’re folded into a semi-circular shape and crimped at the edges – simple and perfect.
If our attitude to our own food were different, the Bakewell pudding would be famous across the UK, and protection would spread its fame further still. Commercially eclipsed as it has been by the ersatz Bakewell tart, the Bakewell pudding is a thing of beauty, if not for the faint-hearted, consisting of puff pastry, strained jam, eggs, ground almonds, butter and sugar.
The original secret recipe is still used for this gingerbread, somewhere between a biscuit and a cake, and which uses oats as an ingredient. The Wordsworths loved it. If we valued our food as other Europeans do we’d be turning up with slabs of this stuff to sell in German town squares at Christmas.
First bred in Gressingham, Lancashire in 1980, the Gressingham Duck is a cross-breed of wild Mallard and Pekin Duck that has more meat, less fat and a gamier flavour than most domestic breeds. The entire stock is held by the Gressingham company, based in Norfolk and Suffolk and is a byword for quality among British chefs.
This cheese is already famous enough to have been mentioned in Wallace and Gromit, and to have been interpolated into Monty Python’s Cheese shop sketch in the recent stage revival. This cow’s milk cheese is made to a recipe of the Cisterian order of Monks who once inhabited the farm on which it’s now made. Its rind is washed in perry, a drink local to the area, one variety of which is called ‘Stinking Bishop’, an apposite name for this famously smelly cheese.
Made in Sheffield since the late 19th century, this condiment is rarely seen outside South Yorkshire, but is a treasure the UK, and the wider world, should know about and value. Although the bottle is similar in appearance to the already world-famous Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, Henderson’s Relish is very different: it containins no anchovies and its flavour is all about the mixture of vinegar and spices.
Although Little Scarlet strawberries are American in origin, they are grown commercially only by Wilkin & Sons Ltd. in Tiptree, Essex, where the small berries are laboriously harvested to make the small batch of deservedly expensive conserve that’s released annually and exported to 60 countries around the world. It was Iain Fleming’s, and therefore James Bond’s jam of choice. How British. How international. How stylish.
The smoked haddock, dyed or natural, that we know and love as the essential ingredient of kedgeree, omelette Arnold Bennett and Cullen skink is based on the Finnan haddie, which gained UK-wide fame with the completion of the Aberdeen to London railway in 1840. Unlike their PGI-endowed cousin, the Arbroath smokie, the haddock are smoked with green wood, turf and/or peat.