Dairy stars in Great Taste Awards

THE West Country’s dairy heritage was to the fore in the list of three star winners in the 2020 Great Taste Awards, run by the Guild of Fine Food, based in Gillingham, north Dorset. The top products in the world’s most trusted food and drink awards included cheese, yogurt, cream and curd.

Single stars were awarded to 42 per cent of the record-breaking 12,777 entries, with 441 stars for producers based in the South West.

Among the region’s three-star winners are Jersey Curd from The Old Cheese Room in Corsham, described by judges as “silky and smooth, perfectly firm yet soft”, with “a wonderful combination of lactic acidity and creaminess”; the “creamy, rich and thick” Dorset Strained Yoghurt, Whole Milk, from The Dorset Dairy Co in Sturminster Newton, a “yogurt that deliverers everything you want”; Jess’s Ladies Organic Double Cream from Jess’s Ladies Organic Farm in Hardwicke, “convincingly luscious, rich, almost yellow, luxurious and full of flavour”; and Cornish Yarg from Lynher Dairies Cheese Company in Ponsanooth, a “fresh tasting, creamy and smooth” nettle-wrapped cheese that is “very moreish and deliciously clean and clear, with a dairy richness which carries and lingers well.”

These producers can now enjoy their success and begin displaying the unmistakable gold and black Great Taste logo, with one, two or three stars, on their award-winning products,. But some will be waiting with nail-biting anticipation to see if they have taken the top awards for their region. These final honours, including the Great Taste 2020 Supreme Champion, will be announced at the virtual Great Taste Golden Fork event in October.

The Great Taste scheme values taste above all else, with no regard for branding or packaging. Whether it is cake, coffee, kippers or kombucha being judged, all products are removed from their packaging before being tasted by 144 expert judges, including chefs, food writers, bloggers, and producers.

Thanks to the lockdown, which began one week into the judging schedule, this year’s winners were selected through a combination of remote judging and socially distanced sessions at Gillingham and the Guild’s London base. This necessitated a swift and comprehensive reinvention of the Great Taste process to ensure that robust judging standards were maintained and the quality of feedback was not compromised, all in time to provide a much-needed boost for food and drink producers during the all-important Christmas period.

The  three-star judging panel included cook, writer and champion of sustainable food, Melissa Hemsley, cook, writer, stylist and voice of modern vegetarian cooking, Anna Jones, celebrated Spanish chef, José Pizarro, Kavi Thakrar from Dishoom, food writer and cook, Xanthe Clay, and baker and author, Martha Collison, as well as food buyers from Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and Waitrose.

Other three-star winners include smoked pancetta from Capreolus, the charcuterie business based in West Dorset, Oxford-based Wessex Mill (Mixed Grain, Cobber and Six-Seed bread flour), the Artisan Kitchen in Gloucester (damson jam, and nine different marmalades), and a stunning ready meal, Chicken Dal with Lemon and Ginger from The Wild Hare Group, based at Cheltenham.

Details of this year’s winners can be found at www.greattasteawards.co.uk and a wide range of award winning products are available to buy in delis, farm shops and independent retail outlets across the country.

The Guild of Fine Food is committed to sustainability and cutting waste., with unused products donated to local food banks and hampers made up of excess products given to local businesses to raffle in aid of charities. No plastic plates or cutlery were used during the judging rounds, massively reducing plastic waste. The Guild of Fine Food also donates surplus computer equipment, used to record the judges’ comments, to community-based projects across the UK, which are then refurbished and used to facilitate after school clubs and many other initiatives designed to support underprivileged families.

Pictured: Cheese expert Charlie Turnbull, who for many years had Turnbulls deli and cafe in Shaftesbury, judging three-star products; three star judging at Guild HQ in Dorset; award-winning strained yoghurt from the Dorset Dairy Company.