Beyond Yorkshire pudding and Wensleydale cheese, England’s largest county has never been particularly famous for its food but, in gastronomic matters, as in so many other areas, North Yorkshire surprises with its unexpected mix of rustic no-nonsense and sophistication. What is certain is that there are some truly talented artisans making the most of locally produced, high-quality ingredients.
Yorkshire can’t compete in the climate stakes with the West Country and it doesn’t have the fertile soils of the Fens, but what it has in spades is variety. Each area has a distinct terrain which often determines food production. The heather-covered hills of the North York Moors produce some of the finest honey in the country. Sometimes for sale at the point of production, honey is usually on sale at farmers’ markets and village shops. Milk from the local dale farm herds goes to produce cheeses, such as those from the Botton Creamery and ice cream to die for made by Beacon Farm and Ryeburn.
The big coastal fishing fleets might be a thing of the past, but top quality seafood is still landed all along the Yorkshire coast. In Staithes, catch your own lobster on a Real Staithes trip before cooking and eating your haul on the beach, or perhaps head down the road to Whitby for some traditional Fortunes oak-smoked kippers. Sea fish are expected, but maybe not local rainbow trout; limestone spring-water near Pickering allows these fish to be cultured at Willowdene Farm, where an unexpected crop of watercress is also harvested.
Well-drained, limey soils, like those in the Howardian Hills and Wolds, favour fruit production. Apples from the orchards at Ampleforth and Suffield produce fine juices and ciders, grapes from Ryedale Vineyards go to make award-winning wines, and the sloe crop from local hedgerows is made into all sorts of delights by the clever folk at Sloemotion.
Meanwhile, York has a history of importing cocoa beans from the tropics and converting them into fine chocolate. The glory days of Rowntree’s, Terry’s and Fry’s may be in the past, but small-scale, traditional chocolate-making is still happening at the York Cocoa House.
And the beer? North Yorkshire has a really impressive array of breweries. The Great Yorkshire Brewery in Cropton is a large and well-established business that exports so much beer to the Far East that it has a Chinese website; Wold Top Brewery is much smaller, but its beers win awards every year (Benchmark Session IPA – World Beer Awards 2021, Best UK IPA). The Goodmanham Arms does brewing as it always used to be done – in the back of the pub, to be drunk by its own customers and those in a few neighbouring pubs.