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From real ale to organic cheese: On the trail of good food in Kent

Okayent has lengthy been thought to be the “Backyard of England”, so it’s no shock that Kent Food Trails presents a lot to style and luxuriate in.

All six trails – vineyards and wine; hops and beer; apples, cider and juices; cherries and berries; cheese and dairy and craft distilleries – are designed to be adopted on foot or by automotive, with maps, strolling routes, tastings and eating places included.

The concept is to help native producers and make it straightforward for meals lovers to entry all of the county has to supply, from wine, cheese and apples to natural meat, cider and beer.


It’s not often known as the capital of English wine for nothing. Stephanie Durling of Produced in Kent, which launched the paths in October 2018, says: “Kent has the proper mix of soils, local weather and keenness.

“There are already over 50 vineyards – greater than some other English county – and our wines are choosing up main awards at worldwide wine competitions so enthusiasm and curiosity is larger than ever.”

A restaurant in Tenterden is the perfect place for a Kentish platter lunch: breads, charcuterie and cheeses ga

A go to to Chapel Down – the nation’s main wine producer – may see you quaffing crisp sauvignon at a time extra normally confined to espresso. Tastings are expertly carried out and a guided tour of the 22-acre winery feels extra like being within the Rhône Valley; a number of the bacchus vines are 30 years outdated, with extra uncommon varieties similar to hybrid tondo from Eire. Because of world warming, they’re now additionally rising chardonnay grapes.

Brothers Sam and Tim Nightingale launched their first cider in 2013 (Nightingale Cider)

English wines are recent and vibrant; look out for the 2018 classic – a rare harvest because of the chilly, dry spring and scorching dry summer time. Final 12 months, they planted 100,000 vines, many on a chalk line that runs to France’s Champagne area; the terroir is so good that champagne homes similar to Taittinger now have vineyards in Kent.

From grapes to hops, Old Dairy Brewery was arrange in 2010 in an outdated milking parlour deep within the Kent countryside. The corporate rapidly grew a loyal fan base amongst actual ale fanatics who appreciated the finely crafted recipes and native hops (from Hukins Hops, three miles away). 

They quickly expanded to a a lot bigger brewery in Tenterden with gargantuan metal mashers and a small-scale bottling “plant”, including a store and tastings of their award-winning Pink High, Gold High and Blue High beers; there are additionally restricted version seasonal beers and even a vegan, gluten-free model, Observe the Herd.

Given the county’s enormous apple manufacturing, it was no shock to find Nightingale Cider. Enterprising third-generation farmer’s sons Sam and Tim Nightingale’s finest recollections are of lengthy days working outdoor and foraging; evenings experimenting with juices and residential brews – “the darkish artwork of what occurs when apple juice goes fallacious!” 

Silcocks Natural Farm pasture graze their Ayrshires and British Fresians for milk manufacturing (Silcocks Cheese)

Their father had produced apple and pear juice and, after first making cider as a passion, the brothers launched their first bottles in 2013; such was their success that two years later Sam swapped his job in sound recording for muddy boots and overalls. They’re on to a winner: obtainable from their farm store, the ciders, brewed from braeburn, russet and Cox’s Orange Pippins with wild fermentation over two years, are extremely crisp and fresh-tasting.

One other fruit farming household began Chegworth Valley in 1983 with simply 15 acres and now has 330, supplying unbiased retailers and farmers’ markets with its conventional apple and pear varieties, award-winning juices, delicate fruit and greens. 

Their cafe in Tenterden – white partitions, washed picket floorboards and farmhouse tables – is the perfect place for a Kentish platter lunch: breads from Plaxtol Bakery and Cranbrook Bakery; charcuterie and cheeses from Curd and Cure together with: Kentish blue (Kingcott Dairy, Staplehurst), Bowyer’s brie (Cheesemakers of Canterbury) and uncooked goat’s milk cheese Shaggy Beard (Ellie’s Dairy). The deli aspect of the store is nice for seasonal fruit and vegetable pickings from Chegworth Valley and others.

There’s all the time one thing particular about seeing cattle in situ. At Silcocks Organic Farm, David Fenton, the epitome of a rustic farmer with flat cap and inexperienced jacket, led us by means of his fields simply outdoors St Michael’s, dodging cowpats as we admired his lovely Hereford cattle, Gloucester Previous Spot pigs and Romney and Dorset sheep. 

David is justly proud that his livestock is reared sustainably with no stress. “Authentic native breeds of cattle are perfect for pasture grazing. We have now Authentic Inhabitants Conventional Herefords for meat provide and Ayrshires and British Friesians for milk manufacturing.

Actual ale fanatics rave concerning the Previous Dairy Brewery’s finely crafted recipes and native hops (Previous Dairy Brewery)

“Pasture ought to be a various combination of herbage to supply all kinds of helpful vitamins and keep away from utilizing synthetic fertilisers. Rotational grazing additionally minimises pasture harm and encourages wildlife. Pasture-fed cattle are wholesome and content material, rising slowly and producing milk and meat with larger percentages of helpful omega Three and 6 fatty acids, hint components and minerals, in addition to higher flavour.”

On the ethereal, wood-beamed Silcocks farm store, you should purchase their very good meat – slaughtered at native Soil Affiliation-approved abbatoirs and hung for 28 days: rose veal, award-winning lamb and hogget, sausages, bacon and burgers. Milk, wonderful brie-style cheeses and the creamiest, most pure ice cream are additionally made within the farm’s dairy.

Though the paths have been devised by meals class, you possibly can simply as simply create a bespoke path. It’s a mannequin that different counties would do effectively to emulate, bringing meals lovers up shut and private with the individuals who make or develop what we eat.

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