Made in Kent: The County’s Top Producers
There must be something in the Kentish air. Or the water. Or the scenery. Something, anyway, that means our county has become home to some of the most innovative, well known, and delicious products – from wine to ice cream and so much in between – to grace the farm shop and supermarket shelves. We’re incredibly lucky to live in the midst of all this superb food and drink, and to be surrounded by producers who champion Kent and use this special county’s own bounty to create their amazing products.
by Lisamarie Lamb
Wise Owl Cider // www.facebook.com/wiseowlcider // High Halden
Award-winning Wise Owl Cider (best Kentish Cider or Perry at the 2015 Taste of Kent Awards) is a crisp and fruity drink made using 100% pressed Kentish apples. Based near Ashford, Wise Owl Cider is as Kentish as it gets!
Simply Ice Cream // www.simplyicecream.co.uk // Ashford
The name says it all, and more. Simply Ice Cream is run by Sally Newall, who has created a premium brand using locally sourced ingredients. Homemade by hand in small batches and free from preservatives, this is ice cream at its best, and as it should be. Multi award winning, the popular brand is now sold in almost 400 outlets all over the south of England, and flavours include Lemon Curd, Honeycomb Crunch, and Brown Bread to name just a few. A fabulous selection of sorbets is available too.
Kent Flavour Shed // www.facebook.com/kentflavourshed // Upchurch
Producing the finest quality oils and vinegars, Kent Flavour Shed makes everything by hand at its base in Upchurch, and, wherever possible, uses locally sourced, Kentish ingredients to create its balsamic vinegars, barbecue glazes, sweet vinegars, flavoured sea salts, and seasonings. Delicious as a cooking ingredient or condiment, these oils are ideal to keep in the kitchen – a little part of Kent in every meal.
Stour Valley Game // www.stourvalleygame.co.uk // Chilham
Now known as meat producer of the year (thanks to the Taste of Kent Awards 2015), Stour Valley Game offers you oven-ready game that is succulent, tasty, and all Kentish. Owners, Daran and Stephen, often attend farmers’ markets across the county, and are always on hand to offer advice when it comes to cooking their fabulous birds, which include partridge, pigeon, and woodcock; as well as rabbit and hare, and some more exotic game such as zebra, springbok, and camel!
Hot Face Sauces // www.hotfacesauces.co.uk // Maidstone
Everything is fresh; everything is made in Kent – that’s the ethos behind Hot Face Sauces and its tangy, tingly products. The hot sauces, made in small batches with no artificial additives, include barbecue marinades, Thai-influenced flavours, and even the extremely hot Killer Ketchup!
Blue Bell Hill Apiaries // www.bbha.biz // Lidsing
A family-run and well-established business, Blue Bell Hill Apiaries offers exquisite honey and honey products, and its very own busy bees produce everything. Since 1992, Blue Bell Hill Apiaries has been one of the top honey-producing businesses in the county, and this was recognised at the Taste of Kent Awards in 2006, 2008, and 2010. Not only does it sell the most wonderful honey (and candles and fresh, all-natural fruit juices), it also advises on and provides beekeeping equipment.
Curiously Kentish // www.curiouslykentish.co.uk // Birchington-on-Sea
Owner Jason Friedman and head chef, Kevin Faux, couldn’t find a delicatessen that stocked the kind of food they wanted to eat – fresh, locally sourced Kentish produce – so they opened one. Now Kentish produce is getting a stylish and modern makeover in very experienced hands; the black treacle cure bacon is very popular, for example, and the ploughman’s Scotch egg is a world apart from the usual picnic fare! They also offer a monthly supper club with five tantalising tasting courses, making eating out a social occasion.
Goody Ales // www.goodyales.co.uk // Herne Bay
Goody Ales’ Good Health was voted Best Kentish Beer at the 2015 Taste of Kent Awards, and this honey coloured, fresh and zesty drink with an undertone of orange sets the benchmark for the numerous other superb ales and beers that are produced here. Options include Good Life (pale and tasting of citrus), Good Heavens (made with Pilgrim hops), and Good Evening (a chocolaty darker ale). This is Kent in a bottle.
Big Tree Cider // www.bigtreecider.co.uk // Hartley
It may be a surprise that the little village of Hartley has a thriving cider producer in its midst, but there, nestled amongst the woods and country lanes, is Big Tree Cider, using the finest Kentish apples to produce flavoursome and fruity ciders. With four distinct flavours to choose from (Appley Ever After, Lisping Cowboy, Fruity Beauty, and Walking Gingerly), it’s no wonder that Big Tree Cider has won awards for its great work.
Garden of England Foods // www.gardenofenglandfoods.co.uk // Sittingbourne
Using only English ingredients, Garden of England Foods creates the most marvellous pickles, chutneys, compotes, and condiments. Cucumber relish, sweet pickle, gooseberry compote, Bramley apple sauce, redcurrant jelly, and rhubarb chutney are just some of the distinctly Kentish items it produces.
Chapel Down Wines // www.chapeldown.co.uk // Tenterden
Since it began in 1977, Chapel Down has become the largest UK producer of wine – and the winery has a capacity of one million litres! Using grapes from both its own vineyard and its partners across the South East, the wines produced are vibrant and exciting, and Kent is proud to have them.
Kentish Cheeses // www.kentishcheeses.co.uk // Staplehurst
Kentish Cheeses, where unforgettable Kentish Blue and Kentish Bluebell cheeses are created, is a small, family-run dairy that produces award-winning – all handmade – cheeses. The milk for the cheeses comes from the owners very own dairy cows; nothing could be fresher or better than that.
Anno Distillers // www.annodistillers.co.uk // Marden
Andy and Norman are the co-founders of Anno Distillers, makers of fine Kentish gin. They are also PhD research and development chemists, so they know how to create the perfect smooth gin. With Patience, the copper pot still who is seen as part of the Anno Distillers’ family, and patience when it came to perfecting the blend using Kentish ingredients, Anno Distillers now offers a refreshing, award-winning gin.
Potash Farm // www.kentishcobnuts.com // St Mary’s Platt
Cobnuts are part of the hazelnut family, and they are quintessentially Kentish. In fact, they are one of our biggest exports, after hops and apples. Potash Farm in St Mary’s Platt, near Sevenoaks, grows them in abundance, and creates the most marvellous morsels from them including the nuts themselves, Kentish cobnut oil, cobnut chocolates, cobnut biscuits, brittles, preserves and sauces. Who knew cobnuts could be so versatile? Here is yet another perfect piece of Kentish produce being put to exceptionally good use.
Hugh Lowe Farms // www.hughlowefarms.com // Mereworth
Hugh Lowe Farms specialises in strawberries and raspberries – perfectly juicy, utterly delicious, and totally Kentish varieties that taste of summer. With over 120 years of experience under the family’s belt, Hugh Lowe Farms has staked its claim as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to producing perfect Kentish berries.
Kent Crisps // www.kentcrisps.co.uk // Ramsgate
It was just five years ago that managing director Angie decided that crisps was the way to go, and Kentish crisps at that. Therefore, using rapeseed oil from the Quex Park Estate, and experimenting in her own kitchen with a variety of different and local flavours, these crunchy, quintessentially Kentish crisps were born. Now flavours including Oyster & Vinegar, Beef & Spitfire, and Ashmore Cheese & Onion are available for all to enjoy.
Biddenden Vineyards // www.biddendenvineyards.com // Biddenden
Biddenden has 23 acres of vineyards and grows 11 different varieties of grapes, enabling it to produce excellent white, rosé, and sparkling wines, as well as traditional Kentish ciders and farm-pressed apple and pear juices. This is Kent’s oldest commercial vineyard, and it has been producing excellent wines since 1969.
Hall Place Dairy // www.hallplacedairy.co.uk // Leigh
The fantastic handmade cheeses and ice creams from Hall Place Dairy are produced with whole milk from its own cows, which, as an added bonus, are award-winning Holsteins in their own right. No compromise is made when it comes to quality – Kentish – ingredients, so with every bite you will know that it’s not just a wonderful taste you’re getting, it’s the top of the league in Kentish produce.
Chegworth Valley // www.chegworthvalley.com // Harrietsham
Chegworth Valley has many fine products, but it’s the freshly pressed juices that caught the eyes of the judges at 2015’s Taste of Kent Awards. This is a family-run fruit farm established in 1983, and everything is handmade in small batches onsite. The juices are usually made within hours of the fruit being picked, ensuring total crisp freshness and Kentish flavours. Varieties include raspberry, strawberry, wild elderflower, apple, pear, beetroot, and rhubarb.
Kentish Pip // www.kentishpip.co.uk // Bekesbourne
What started as a hobby has now become something of a success story; Kentish Pip’s excellent ciders are more popular than they have ever been. Using local, seasonal fruits and flavours, the cider makers at Kentish Pip have discovered the secret of creating a sensational tasting drink that is as refreshing as it is good. Varieties include Forager Hedgerow Berry, Firespice Ginger, Wild Summer Elderflower, and Vintage Cider.
Harrington Foods // www.harringtonfoods.co.uk // Benenden
Harrington Foods makes a fabulous sauce: Benenden Sauce. This garlicky delight, which can be used for anything from barbecue marinades to salad dressings, is made using a secret recipe that hails from the village of Benenden itself. As with many successful businesses, this began as a family concern that grew, literally due to popular demand. Despite the growth, Harrington’s still makes its sauce in the traditional way, and uses no artificial ingredients or additives.
Squerryes Court Vineyard // www.squerryes.co.uk // Westerham
Squerryes Court Vineyard is responsible for the triple-award-winning exclusive first vintage reserve made from a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes, all grown on the estate. The family motto here is ‘licet esse beatis’, which means ‘permit oneself to be joyful’ – it’s certainly something that the winemakers here have taken to heart.
Macknade Fine Foods // www.macknade.com // Faversham
The award-winning Macknade Fine Foods is a perfect fusion of Kentish produce and Italian cuisine. Everything that can be made into delicious dishes can be found here; fruit and vegetables such as asparagus, apples, pears, ugli fruit, and yams, over 300 different cheeses (including Winterdale Shaw – Robin Bett’s award-winning Kentish cheddar), a superb charcuterie, and wonderful Kentish-reared meat.
Hush Heath Winery // www.shop.hushheath.com // Staplehurst
Famous for producing England’s ‘most exclusive pink fizz’, Balfour Brut Rosé, Hush Heath Winery has plenty more available as well, including cider. Here you can enjoy self-guided walks as well as more in-depth tours, and find out exactly how real Kentish wines are made (using superb Kentish vines).
Silcocks Farm // www.silcocksfarm-organics.co.uk // Tenterden
For 25 years, Silcocks has been offering delicious organic produce to the local community. All the meat available in the shop is reared on Silcocks Farm itself, and complies with the Soil Society’s strict organic standards – the meat includes Romney Hogget, Kent’s own breed. It’s not just meat through; the dairy produced on this farm is exquisite (and award winning – the organic double cream won at the 2015 Taste of Kent Awards), and there is even a café serving organic, homegrown, homemade food and drink.
Lower Ladysden Farm // www.lowerladysden.co.uk // Goudhurst
Based in rural Kent, the owners and growers at Lower Ladysden Farm specialise in producing seasonal Kentish crops that include asparagus, strawberries, and raspberries. They even offer a pick-your-own service, so you can go and experience not only the taste of the bountiful fruits and vegetables, but also the beauty of the location itself.
Harbour Chocolate Lounge // www.clareyschocolates.co.uk // Ramsgate
Situated on Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour, the only chocolatiers in the Thanet area has a prime position for both views and taste. Specialising in artisan chocolate products – and also licensed to sell beer, wine, and spirits – there are sweet snacks galore here. The chocolate may be Belgian, but every other ingredient is the finest that Kent has to offer.
Challock Chutney Company // www.challockchutneycompany.moonfruit.com // Challock
Pickled eggs from its own free-range hens, preserves cooked in the traditional way in small batches, ingredients sourced locally – the Challock Chutney Company does all this and more, creating some mouth-watering delicacies from its location on the North Downs of Kent. Try the fabulous Apple and Date Chutney, the beautiful Beetroot and Ginger Chutney, or even the wonderful Fig and Apricot Chutney, and you’ll fall in love with the simple, yet tasty flavours.
Hudson’s Fish // www.hudsonsfish.co.uk // Herne Bay
Hudson’s Fish sources seasonal, locally caught (in Kent) fish and then prepares it so that you don’t have to. There’s never any need to worry about bones or scaling, gutting or preparing – this is oven-ready fish with a fresh twist. It is even possible to buy a ‘loved-up’ bag that contains lemon, herbs, butter, wine, and everything else that might be needed to cook up a wonderful fish dish from Hudson’s.
Fudge Kitchen // www.fudgekitchen.co.uk // Lyminge
Fudge may be the most delicious mistake in the world (it came about when a college student was attempting to make toffee, but didn’t heat the concoction enough – hence the term ‘fudge’ used for an error), but Fudge Kitchen certainly doesn’t get it wrong. Its fudge recipes include superb flavours such as Sea Salted Caramel, Maple Walnut, Blueberry Muffin, and Eton Mess. And you’ve heard of drinking chocolate, but what about drinking fudge? This Kentish company offers it by the sticky, sweet glass, and it is a revelation in taste.
H&RH Escargots // www.hrh-escargots.co.uk // Littlebourne
When you’re looking for something a little different for the dinner party, escargot could be the perfect choice. At H&RH Escargots, run by a mother-and-daughter team, you can buy snails to breed or to cook, depending on what you are looking for. Not only that, but there are special snail information courses run here, so you can learn more and perhaps even start breeding them too!
Great Preservations // Tonbridge
Katherine Foster-Smith is the brains and the creative artistry behind Tonbridge-based Great Preservations. Using ingredients grown on her own well-stocked allotment, Katherine makes chutneys, jams, and preserves to traditional recipes, but with her own personal twist, making them unique and moreish. Her marmalade has won awards, and this Kentish company is expanding rapidly.