Berkshire food producers: four of the best
Published: 19 Mar 2013 09:30
THE county of Windsor Castle and Ascot Racecourse boasts a number of companies producing award-winning food with local food enthusiasts turning their passion into profit, running cheese dairies, fudge kitchens and even a chocolate factory.
Two Hoots Cheese:
A cheese-making family from Barkham are no strangers to the realms success but still manage to keep their home town at the heart of their locally-produced food.
Sandy and Andy Rose, from Two Hoots Cheese, produce a variety of blue cheeses including Barkham Blue, Barkham Chase and Loddon Blewe.
Named after its town of origin, Barkham Blue has consistently won gold at both the World Cheese Awards and the British Cheese Awards. While Loddon Blewe, a soft blue-veined cheese, has also scooped best English and best blue at the British Cheese Awards in 2010.
The pair, who celebrated their 10th anniversary as Two Hoots Cheese in February, first experimented with making cheese from their own goat's milk using a bucket and hanging it overnight in the shower to drain.
After toying with the idea, the family moved to Barkham where they converted outbuildings into a cheese dairy with a small vat in 2003.
Sandy, whose father made cheese as a hobby, said: "I always wanted to make a blue cheese from Channel Island milk like my dad so after months of trials and tests Barkham Blue was born."
The business expanded in 2011 with the installation of its own pasteuriser, allowing them to source quality local milk but it remains very much a family affair.
Sandy said: "Our daughter, Nia now works in the business full-time, our son Liam and his sister Lesley help out part-time and my dad, Norman, who's retired, lends a hand from time to time."
Two Hoots Cheese is sold in farm shops including Dobbies Garden Centre, in Shinfield, and Lockey Farm Shop, in Arborfield, as well as used by restaurants, such as Miltons, at Cantley House Hotel in Wokingham.
Mortimer Chocolate Company:
Adrian Smith left a successful career at Mars spanning nearly 20 years to start Mortimer Chocolate Company with wife Felicity, specialising in producing fine quality cocoa goods from around the world.
Adrian began working on recipes and ingredients six months before launching the company in 2006 to create a "really good chocolate". He said: "Major chocolate manufacturers blend cocoas to make a product that always tastes the same but I wanted to make 100% chocolate powder.
"Chocolate is like coffee and people should decide how much cocoa they want to use, not the manufacturers.
"People can drink or eat our powder and it tastes great, not like cocoa powder." Adrian, who previously worked as one of only two cocoa tasters for Masterfoods, uses his experience of sourcing cocoa in South America and West Africa while his wife Felicity uses her skills as a nutritionist to experiment with a variety of recipes.
A typical batch, produced last week and made in their kitchen at home in Mortimer, weighed in at two tonnes.
One of their newest products, the White Couverture Powder, a diary-free alternative to white chocolate, was recently shortlisted for a FreeFrom Food Award, celebrating innovation in the food industry.
Felicity said: "All our chocolate powders are free from dairy, soya and gluten and it was our customers who persuaded us to develop it, so those with a diary intolerance could still enjoy making and eating white chocolate cakes and puddings."
Mortimer Chocolate Company's chocolate powders and dips are available at Waitrose stores in Reading, Bracknell, Thatcham and Wokingham, as well as online at
After using her grandmother's recipe for over 30 years Alex Marsden-Smedley's homemade fudge has grown from an enjoyable hobby into a thriving local business.
Trained as a Cordon Bleu Cook, Alex used her fudge as presents for families and friends but now her confectionery, including chocolate, ginger, peppermint and lavender fudge, is stocked in more than 30 delis and farm shops across the county.
Alex, from Newbury, said: "It was never meant to be more than a hobby but I always wanted to cook and eventually friends started asking if they could buy my fudge to give as presents themselves."
She first started making fudge at the age of 14 but has been operating full-time as a confectionery maker for 11 years and produces 11 flavours of fudge and truffles. Alex and her helpers, including several gap year students who help out in the busier times of year, use a specialist fudge cooker to produce around 20-30 kilos of fudge a day. However at Christmas this grows to around 60-80 kilos. Marsdens Fudge, which has won gold at the Great Taste Awards in 2006 and 2010, is available from several shops including Cobbs Farm Shop in Hungerford, and Greys Cheese Shop in Pangbourne, or at www.marsdensfudge.co.uk
In West Berkshire, the birthplace of Michael Bond, creator of marmalade's biggest fan, Paddington Bear, Susie Kensett has been creating world-class fruit preserves for more than 16 years. Hermitage-based, Susie's Preserves, won gold at the World's Original Marmalade Festival in 2011 which saw her Clementine marmalade beat thousands to claim the prestigious prize of being stocked in Fortnum and Mason for a year.
Susie tries to source local ingredients for her jams, jellies, marmalades and pickled onions, which is apparent in her real ale marmalade made with Good Old Boy ale from the county's own West Berkshire Brewery.
She said: "I make everything in small batches in normal-sized jam pans as you would at home as you get a better flavour that way, so I multi-task very well, producing thousands of jars a week."
Most recently, Susie has launched a new ginger pickled onion to add to the honey and chilli onion already on offer. The preserves are stocked all over the county including the Museum of English Rural Life, in Reading, and The Herb Farm, in Sonning Common. She also sells at Beale Boat Show in June and the Berkshire County Show in September, and online at www.susiespreserves.co.uk
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