CUMBRIA'S food and drink producers have scored highly in one of the industry's most prestigious competitions.
A total of 49 products from producers across the county have taken home prizes at the Great Taste Awards.
Two of these were awarded the top mark of three stars - Grants Traditionally Smoked Rope Hung Salmon, produced by Maryport-based MacKnight, and the D'Amore Lythe Valley Damson Pie of More? The Artisan Bakery in Staveley, near Kendal.
The awards, established in 1994 by the Guild of Fine Food, have been described as the “Oscars of the food world” and the “epicurean equivalent of the Booker prize”.
Twelve panels of experts made up of top chefs, cookery writers, food critics, restaurateurs and fine food retailers decide the awards using blind testing.
Successful entrants are awarded one, two or three stars, according to the judges' verdicts. Fewer than three per cent of entries received the three star award.
MacKnight’s chief Jonathan Brown was "delighted".
He said: “The key to this success has been a return to the oldest traditions of smoking and hand carving salmon.
“The Atlantic salmon is salted by hand in sea salt, and then rope hung and smoked for three days using wood chips from Scottish whisky barrels. It is then hand-sliced by our production manager, Patsy Waite."
Another product from the company took one star, its Simple Salmon Natural Hot Smoked Salmon Portions.
Patrick Moore, of More? The Artisan Bakery, was also pleased. The pie makes use of damsons which are originally used for the firm's Damson Gin, itself a two star winner.
He said: "This is a massive kick up the stockists' ladder, the Great Taste label goes down really well. It gives the producers something to shout about."
The bakery also won two stars for its Marvellous Malt Loaf, and its Meaty Potato Pie and Cheese and Onion Pie both took one star.
Some of the county's most recognisable names also came home with prizes.
Butchers Cranstons, which has its headquarters in Penrith, took four awards, a record for the firm. The 21-Day Hung Tomahawk Steak took two stars while its Dry Cured Streaky Bacon, Huntsman Pie and Cumbrian Salt Beef all received one.
Managing director Philip Cranston said: "We are thrilled to have won four Great Taste Awards this year, the huntsman pie, salt beef and tomahawk steaks are relatively new to our range so it’s wonderful that their quality has been recognised by the discerning Great Taste judges.
"We are proud to be part of a really successful year for Cumbria."
Coffee firm John Watt & Son, based in Carlisle, won two awards with its Rainforest Alliance Espresso 1865 and Nicaraguan Fairtrade both taking one star.
Peter Johnston, the firm's joint owner, said: "I think it is the first time the business has entered and it is certainly the first time since we took over (in 2015). We were quite surprised - it was to test the water this year, we will be going all out next year."
Another winner was Lakeland Mues, of Wigton, set up last year. It won for its Artman Classic muesli. Co-founder Luke Christian said: "We knew it tasted incredible but it is good to get this approval."
Another winner was Penrith's The Cumbrian Sausage, run by Oliver Nohl-Oser, who appeared on The Apprentice last year.
Its Smoked Streaky Bacon took one star as did its Traditional Cumberland Sausage.
Mr Nohl-OSer said: "A lot of people will see the result and know that it has gone through a rigorous judging process."
Stringers Beer in Ulverston won prizes for two of its gluten free beers; Outlook Gluten Free Pale Ale took one star and Outlook Gluten Free Amber Ale collected two.
Owner John Kyme said: "We are very pleased for these beers. We get the judges' feedback for them and they said they would not have guessed they were gluten free, which is what we are aiming for."
Shed 1 Distillery, also in Ulverston, took two stars for its Cuckold’s Revenge Gin.
Andy Arnold-Bennett, the firm's boss, said: "It’s wonderful to get this award, particularly as we only launched last year.
"To be such a small enterprise, quite literally working from out of our shed, and to get such a prestigious award is brilliant. A combined celebration of this and Shed 1’s first year anniversary will take place in October. We would like to thank everyone who has supported and encouraged us since we began.”
The biggest winner from the county was Mr Vikkis, of High Hesket, which collected six awards for its range of condiments. From the three star winners, the top 50 foods in the world will be chosen at an awards ceremony in London in September.
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