To gain insight into local artisan brands (in addition to our serious love of good food), the team at Elephants Can’t Jump went on a food tour of the Vale of Belvoir.
The team gained insight into local brands specialising in jams, honeys, gins, beers and oils. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the owners of these businesses, who were founts of knowledge and have kept their businesses going through the pandemic. Here are a handful of the inspirational local Leicestershire brands we visited and some of our learnings:
Brewster’s Brewery: A single infusion brewery located in Grantham which predominantly produces cask conditioned ales, in addition to kegged beers and canned small packs. The brewery was founded by Sara Barton on completion of her masters degree in brewing and distilling.
Our learnings about beer:
1) In previous centuries, women rather than men, we the principal brewers of beer. Only at the advent of industrialisation, did brewing become a predominantly male activity.
2) The word ‘brewster’, is the old English word for a female brewer.
3) The taste of beer can be greatly altered through the type of hops that are added to the barley, yeast and water. Different hops can add floral, fruity or citrusy notes to the beer.
Peacock Farm: A family run farm based in the Vale of Belvoir for 5 generations, specialising in cold-pressed rape seed oil, honey and briquettes. The ethos of the brand is based on quality, locally produced products with low food miles.
Our learnings about honey:
1) There is a lot more human effort that goes into the production of honey than one might initially think! It is a real skill to establish a hive, maintain it and harvest the honey to high standards.
2) Honey tastes different depending on the flowers that the bees extract the pollen from. Honey straight from a hive is full of unique flavour notes based on its location and season, and there is now innovative technology which enables us to find out exactly which flowers the honey has been derived from.
3) Honey has become one of the UK’s favourite sweet spreads, due to its versatility. From adding it to smoothies, to honey-glazing vegetables to mixing into hot water with lemon, honey is an all rounder, with many different uses and occasions.
Barlows of Belvoir: Producers of ‘preserves for the discerning consumer’, including farm made jams, marmalades and chutneys. Barlows uses traditional ingredients and methods, whilst placing focus on sustainability.
Our learnings about jam:
1) Jam was a key ingredient in the Tudor and Victorian kitchen. It was used to marinate meat, as a filling in pies and as a condiment with the majority of main meals. Interestingly, in the 16th century, people thought fresh fruit was bad for you, so they cooked it and made jam!
2) Today, jam is predominantly regarded as a sweet spread for toast. However for centuries, jam was seen as a way to preserve fruit and retain its goodness!
3) There is a science to pairing jams with complementary foods. New pairings we discovered included lemon jam mixed into humous and fig jam paired with brie cheese, which adds a sweeter touch to the eating experience.
Brentingby Gin: Creators of handcrafted gin, distilled and bottled in Melton Mowbray. Bruce, the founder of Brentingby Gin, has injected his South African roots into the gin’s design, thus combining British tradition with wider world inspiration.
Our learnings about gin:
1) Gin was established as an alcoholic beverage in around 1689 and its earliest known food pairing was gingerbread.
2) Gin’s sweet pine and soft citrus flavour is derived from the juniper berry, one of the core ingredients in gin. Other botanicals can be added to enhance the beverage’s flavour.
3) Societal favourite, gin & tonic, was first used for medicinal purposes as the quinine in the tonic water was a deterrent to malaria carrying mosquitoes. Gin was added to make the taste more palatable!