Want to go straight to the source of Britain's tastiest produce? Matthew Fort takes you on a tour of 20 of the best specialty foods of Britain.
1. Mozzarella in Hampshire
Traditionally, mozzarellais made with the milk of the water buffalo in the Campania region of Southern Italy. But there's no need to go that far – instead, try the 2,500 acres of biodynamic farmland at Laverstoke Park Farm in deepest Hampshire, where you will find the biggest herd of water buffalo in the UK - and Laverstoke's acclaimed mozzarella.
2. Tea in Cornwall
It may seem odd for a country that drinks so much of the stuff, but there's actually only one tea estate in Britain, and that's Tregothnan Estate in Truro, Cornwall. It's in the warm, wet county of Cornwall, where the climate is not that dissimilar from the classic tea-growing areas of Sri Lanka and India. There are over 30 Assam and Chinese varieties, and tea production follows the time-honoured system of hand plucking the bushes.
3. Sparkling wine in Bodmin
There was a time when British wine was scoffed at. No longer. British wine, and in particular British sparkling wine, regularly picks up awards in international competitions. And no British sparkling wine sparkles more than that of the Camel Valley vineyard. It won the Trophy and a Gold Medal in the International Wine Challenge for Camel Valley Bacchus in 2009.
4. Berries in Gloucestershire
There's nothing quite like picking your own fruit on a warm summer's day and there's plenty to pick at the Wotton Farm Shop on the Severn escarpment in south Gloucestershire. They grow raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, gooseberries, blueberries and tayberrie. It's run by the Grimes family, and is a member of the Big G group of Gloucestershire Farm Shops, a collective of growers and artisan producers.
5. Apple juice in Brookthorpe
Berkley Pippin, Transparent Codlin: there's a kind of poetry about the names of apples you'll find growing in the orchards of Dave Kaspar and Helen Brent-Smith, the two-person workforce behind Day's Cottage. You can buy cider, perry and bottles of apple juice, each graded by sweetness and frequently with the names of the particular apples making the juice at this cheerfully ramshackle cottage.
6. Chicken in Chepstow
Madgett's Farm has been there, in the rolling, wooded landscape where England meets Wales, for a very, very long time – it's even mentioned in the Doomsday Book - and it has a reputation for the quality of their chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. The birds have proper texture and a deep rich flavour, as you can judge yourself by visiting the farm, buying one and taking it home to cook and eat.
7. Honey in Monmouthshire
There's a season for honey. It lasts, according to Les and Jill Chirnside of the Llanover Skirrid Honey Farm near Abergavenny (ph:01873 880625) , from about March until the end of October, or even into November. During this period, it's all go for beekeepers, removing the honey from the combs and getting it into jars. Les and Jill are happy to talk honey with anybody – just call first to make sure they're not out tending to their bees.
8. Caerphilly cheese in Ceredigion
Trethowan's Dairy is a family business, making Gorwydd Caerphilly (pronounced Gor-with), with its stone-coloured rind, its inside the colour of primroses and its fresh, creamy flavour with a distinct lemony tang at the end of it. The same Gorwydd Caerphilly that has won a hatful of awards, including 2001 Best Welsh Cheese (World Cheese Awards). The dairy also runs a cheese school in collaboration with food writer Fiona Beckett, to teach the finer points of artisan cheese appreciation.
9. Bread in Montogomery
Speed and heat are the great enemies of the goodness in flour, and nothing grinds slower or cooler than a water-driven mill. It's this go-slow approach to milling that has made Matt Scott's Bacheldre flours the choice of a slew of first-division chefs and bakers, as well as the Ludlow Food Centre in Shropshire, where Anna, the master baker, uses them for her cakes and breads.
10. Beef in Denbighshire
There are 12,500 acres of the Rhug Estate,the core of which is a 2,500-acre organic farm. Here, Lord Newborough has built up a herd of glorious Aberdeen Angus cattle. These are reared on a coastal farm near Caernafon and then moved to the lusher inland pastures of Rhug, where they can mature.
11. Pies in Cumbria
There are pigs galore at Sillfield Farm, in a handsome part of the Lake District. They're special pigs, too – Gloucester Old Spot, saddleback, Middle White, Tamworth and wild boar – all old breeds with particular, delicious qualities. In the end, they all go into a range of porky products made on the farm, under the watchful eye of Peter Gott, a true food hero, who can count Prince Charles and Jamie Oliver among his admirers.
12. Kippers in the Isle of Man
Moore's Traditional Curers have been splitting, gutting, salting and smoking herrings on the Isle of Man in time-honoured fashion since 1884. Manx kippers tend to be smaller than those of the east coast, and the flavour is delicate and mellow, with a touch more smoke than salt. Moore's are proud to show off the production process in kippering season, which runs from May through to September.
13. Fudge in Penrith
It's called The Toffee Shop, but it's actually more famous for its fudge, which has been made to the same recipe for over 100 years. There's not much on display in the windows, or even in the shop itself, just slabs of fantastic fudge wrapped in opaque greaseproof paper and heaps of toffee. And then there's the comforting aroma of warm molten sugar and butter...
14. Soft cheese in Dumfries
The Loch Arthur Community is set among the green, rolling hills of Dumfrieshire and the farm is run to strict biodynamic principles. Among Loch Arthur's cheeses are Crannog, a soft cheese, and Criffel, a semi-soft rind-washed cheese, both of which have won multiple awards. Visit not only to try them yourself but to see the farm, large garden, creamery, bakery, woodwork studio, weaving workshop and thriving farm shop.
15. Salmon in Sutherland
You'll find Kinloch Lodge, where Hugh Montgomery practises his craft, on the northernmost edge of Scotland, off one of the narrowest, windiest roads you'll ever drive along. Hugh passionately labours over his sides of salmon (wild salmon caught locally or farmed from Loch Duart) with exacting attention to detail. He also smokes trout, venison, mackerel, duck and pheasants and does a range of sausages and haggis.
16. Sausages in Nottinghamshire
So you want to learn about making sausages? Or how to cure a ham or prepare any charcuterie? Then make the trip to Wellbeck, a kind of forgotten fairyland, where you'll find the School for Artisan Food, housed in a block of renovated 19th-century stables. There's a working bakery and a dairy, as well as the butchery section, and a micro-brewery is about to open. Do a one- or two-day course - or you can also just look round for free.
17. Beer in Burton upon Trent
Burton upon Trent has been the capital city of British brewing ever since the unique properties of the water there were discovered to be ideal for the brewing of ales. Here you can tour The National Brewery Centre to see how beer is made or attend one of the regular tasting events, and then order a pint of your choice in The Brewery Tap bar.
18. Spirits in Suffolk
Adnams have been brewing their award-winning beers at Southwold since 1872, and the same care is now being brought to bear on their gins and vodkas, all of which are made, as far as possible, with locally grown raw materials. There are tours of the distillery for the over-18s and the £10 admission entitles you to a discount on bottles sold in the Adnams shop nearby.
19. Shellfish in Kent
Whitstable may be more famous for its oysters than its whelks, but there are still enough lovers of this chunky marine snail to keep the Wests at work in pretty tar-black clapperboard buildings at one end of picturesque Whitstable Harbour. Here they unload the whelks from the whelk pots, grade them, and then boil them for 20 minutes. After that, they are plucked out of their shells and are ready to eat.
20. Wild food in Sussex
Nick Weston was the survival expert on Channel 4's Shipwrecked series, but now he shows other people how it's done, not just the which-berry-can-I-eat-without- poisoning-myself part, but the full range of shooting, fishing, preparing and cooking as well. Between April and October, he conducts one-day and two-day courses that cover whatever food is free, wild and in season, how to find it, deal with it and how best to serve it up.
This article is an excerpt from Lonely Planet Magazine.
This article was updated in November 2012.