Producers across Northern Ireland are celebrating as the results of the Great Taste Awards are announced. Shining brightly among the winners are a dry- aged marrow butter from Kettyle Irish Foods of County Fermanagh, Moyallon Guanciale from Hannan Meats in County Antrim and two products made by McCartney’s of Moira in County Antrim, winners of last year’s supreme champion award. This year McCartney’s hand-made sweet-corned pork and corned beef both won praises from the judges.
The Great Taste accreditation scheme, run by The Guild of Fine Food, is recognised by both producers and discerning consumers, as a sign of quality and reassurance that the product is outstanding.
No easy win, a product that displays the Great Taste logo has fought its way through round after round of judging by over 350 of the UK’s most professional, dedicated and knowledgeable judges who cogitate and ruminate, they discuss and debate. Finally, after 45 days of judging, the list of award winners is now available.
Judges this year included Masterchef winner and restaurateur Mat Follas, restaurant critic and Masterchef judge Charles Campion, food writers Lucas Hollweg and Xanthe Clay and over 300 food buyers from leading food halls, delicatessens and farm shops, including Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason.
Now for some facts – 8,807 different products were entered, and 123 entries were awarded a coveted three-star gold. The total number of awards given, including all one-, two- and three-star golds this year is 2,793. Ranging from beers to brownies, saffron to smoked rack of bacon and mincemeat to marmalade, many reflect the return to more traditional foods but with a modern twist.
According to Guild of Fine Food chairman Bob Farrand, each of these food and drink products has undergone the most rigorous scrutiny. “To achieve a Great Taste Award is a significant achievement and for a product to merit a 3-star grading involves at least 25 experts unanimously agreeing that the product tastes divine,” he commented.
Great Taste has become known for launching little-known artisan producers into the big time of the fine food world, whilst occasionally discovering the odd mainstream surprise. Among other three-star winners this year are Cortijo De Suerte Alta Coupage Natural DOP extra virgin olive oil from a family estate in Spain, a Lithuanian Scalded Rye Bread from Essex and a Lamb Carpacchio made in Wales.
The annual programme culminates with the ‘Golden Fork’ Awards in London in September and the naming of the Great Taste Supreme Champion, a title won last year by a corned beef from traditional Northern Ireland butcher McCartney’s of Moira, which has been nominated again in 2012.