As if anyone needs reminding, the festive season is just around the corner.
The beginning of December will mark the annual countdown to Christmas. Chocolate filled Advent calendars will be faithfully opened every day and the shops will go into celebratory over-drive.
The present buying will ratchet up a gear and the party season will get into its full stride.
Among the long list of things that will need to be bought is ingredients for Christmas dinner, for many the most important and hotly anticipated meal of the year.
Given the importance that is hung on this one mealtime it is amazing how many people leave the planning to the last minute. Why else would the queues at the supermarkets stretch out into the car park on Christmas Eve?
This year, instead of following the (reindeer) herd, pledge to go local for your Christmas food instead.
Santa Claus notches up enough air miles to make his own personal hole in the ozone layer. But keeping things local will help cut down on food miles as well as bring a smile to the faces of North-based producers and retailers.
The region boasts a plethora of top quality – and in many cases award winning – home grown produce from the centrepiece of any festive meal, the turkey, to seasonal vegetables, puddings and cakes.
And with excellent farm shops stocking an amazing array of mouth-watering foods dotted across the area, it’s still possible to buy everything you need under one roof.
What’s more, you can rest easy knowing you’ve not only reduced your carbon footprint but helped boost the local economy too.
Journal Taste has pulled together the following flavoursome suggestions on how you can localise your festive feast.
- Blagdon Farm Shop, The Milkhope Centre, Blagdon, Newcastle, NE13 6DA, 01670 789 924, www.blagdonfarmshop.co.uk
This award-winning farm shop just off the A1 rears its own white and bronze turkeys, available to pre-order until the middle of December.
If you want to know what you’re buying, the venture is holding a special tasting event today between 10am-4pm when customers will be able to sample roast turkey as well as gammon and other traditionally festive meats.
The bronze turkeys are priced at £5.19 per pound and the whites at £4.79 per pound. Sizes range from 8-10lbs up to 20lbs plus.
Blagdon is also perfectly positioned to meet all your other Yuletide dinner needs as it stocks a wide selection of seasonal vegetables grown on its own farm as well as from Julian’s Veg of Berwick; has a butchery department with homemade sausages and bacon as well as ready-cooked gammons, and also sells relishes and other condiments, locally made puddings and its own iced and un-iced Christmas fruit cakes.
- Northumberland Free Range Poultry, Thistleyhaugh Farm, Longhorsley, Northumberland, NE65 8RG, 01665 570 629, www.northumberlandpoultry.co.uk
A partnership of like-minded farmers, Northumberland Free Range Poultry specialises in rearing traditional breeds of chickens, ducks and guinea fowl as well as organic and free range bronze turkeys with a small number of Norfolk Blacks and geese.
All the birds are raised in a natural way, which means they take longer to finish than those kept in intensive indoor production houses, and are therefore slightly more expensive. But the end result is an extra tasty and special table bird.
They will have around 650 turkeys for sale this year available to buy direct from the farm or via Tulleys of Rothbury, The Green Shop in Berwick, The Country Barn at Widdrington, butchers R Green and Son of Longframlington, JW Gebhard Sons in Morpeth, Sunnyhills of Belford and Broom House Farm Shop at Witton Gilbert, County Durham.
The free range turkeys are selling at £9.75 a kilo direct from Northumberland Poultry and £11.05 per kilo for the organic free range. Free range geese will cost £16.20 a kilo.
The region boasts an impressive number of award-winning farm shops offering everything from freshly baked breads to exotic treats and all in between. Whether you’re after pigs in blankets or a jar of locally made cranberry sauce, the area’s farm shops will be able to oblige.
And don’t forget the many top quality delicatessens dotted across the region too stocking locally produced foods.
Broom House Farm, Witton Gilbert, www.broomhousedurham.co.uk
New Close Farm Shop, Sacriston, www.newclosefarmshop.co.uk
Knitsley Farm Shop, Knitsley, Consett, www.knitsleyfarmshop.co.uk
Haswell’s Homer Hill Farm Shop, Houghton-le-Spring, www.homerhillfarmshop.co.uk
Dropswell Farm Shop, Trimdon, www.dropswellfarmshop.co.uk
Blagdon Farm Shop, Blagdon, www.blagdonfarmshop.co.uk
Sunnyhills, Belford, www.sunnyhillsfarmshop.co.uk
Moorhouse Farm Shop, Stannington, www.moorhousefarmshop.co.uk
Vallum Farm, Eastwallhouses, www.vallumfarm.co.uk
Brocksbushes Farm Shop, Corbridge, www.brocksbushes.co.uk
North Acomb Farm Shop, Acomb, Stocksfield, www.northacombfarmshop.com
The Country Barn, Widdrington, www.thecountrybarn.co.uk
Heighley Gate Nursery and Garden Centre, Morpeth, www.thegardencentregroup.co.uk
Dobbies Ponteland, www.dobbies.com/find-a-garden-centre/ponteland/
Fishy on A Dishy
Fish has become an increasingly popular Christmas Day starter.
- North Shields Fish Quay: A great place for a day out as well as to buy seasonal seafood.
There are numerous wet fish merchants that deal directly with the public specialising in seafood straight off the boats, including Taylors Seafoods, Lindisfarne Seafoods, Seaview Fisheries and Spivey’s Shellfish. www.fish-quay.com
- Swallow Fish of Seahouses: Run by husband and wife team Patrick and Karen Wilkin, they still use the original smokehouses which have operated on the site since 1843. As well as smoked produce (you’ll find salmon, kippers and cod), Swallow Fish also offers a wide range of fresh, seasonal seafood. www.swallowfish.co.uk
- Ridley’s Fish and Game, Acomb, Northumberland: Ridley’s is a one-stop shop for seasonal, locally sourced fish and wild game. Recommended by celebrity chef Rick Stein, you can get local native lobsters and pates (including both plain and smoked salmon).
The firm also sells a range of homemade fare including fish and wild game pies, terrines and savoury tarts – ideal for festive party nibbles or a Boxing Day get together. www.ridleysfishandgame.co.uk
- Hodgson Fish, Hartlepool: The company set up almost a century ago now runs three shops across the region (they’re in Stockton and Yarm as well as Hartlepool) and has its own fleet catching seasonal fish.
But they have also moved with the times and it’s not unusual to see the likes of tuna and swordfish taking their place on the display slabs. www.hodgsonfish.co.uk
The Pudding Club
- The Proof of the Pudding, Heckley High House, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 2LQ, 01665 602505, www.theproofofthepudding.co.uk
Made to an old family recipe by farmer’s wife Susan Green, The Independent newspaper praised the Alnwick Rum Christmas Pudding for its “sensationally light texture.”
Beef suet is the secret while a generous slug of Alnwick Rum makes for a suitably tipsy and luxurious addition to the festive meal.
Available in three sizes, the small (£5.65) serves two, the medium (£9.80) serves four-five and the large (£16.85) serves eight-10, direct from The Proof of the Pudding.
But it can also be bought over the counter at outlets including Alnmouth Village Store, David Carr in Longframlington, Deli Around the Corner, Tynemouth, Fenwick Food Hall in Newcastle, and The Crescent Farm Shop at Throckley.
A version of the pudding with nuts has also been added to the range with prices coming in at £5.80, £10 and £17.50.
- Archers Jersey Ice Cream, New Moor Farm, Walworth Gate, Darlington, DL2 2UD and Acorn Road, Jesmond, Newcastle, NE2 2DJ, www.archersjerseyicecream.com
Archers Ice Cream came into being in 2002 on the family farm near Darlington. Parlours have since opened in Jesmond, Newcastle, and Yarm as well as at the Archers’ New Moor Farm. Among the myriad of flavours is the seasonal Christmas pudding, which has just gone on sale.
Available in 500ml and 1litre tubs at £4.50 and £7.50 respectively, it has all the flavour of Christmas pud but is a lighter festive alternative.
Archers also makes ice cream cakes and is taking Christmas orders.
If you’ve got room for it after the rest of the festive fare, there are plenty of artisan cheeses available.
- Northumberland Cheese Company, Blagdon: The company’s cheeses are available from fine food specialists across the North, but it’s worth making a trip to buy from the cheese maker direct.
There are 16 cheeses to choose from made from cow, sheep and goat’s milk including oak smoked, the velvety soft mould ripened Brinkburn and Chevington, which is not dissimilar to a hard English brie. www.northumberlandcheese.co.uk
- Doddington Dairy, Wooler: The dairy at the foothills of the Cheviot Hills produces several traditional and locally inspired mature cheeses using milk from the farm’s own herd of Holstein-Friesian cows.
Try Berwick Edge (strong and fruity Gouda-style), the original Doddington (between a Cheddar and Leicester) or Admiral Collingwood (full-flavoured semi-soft). Widely available from independent delicatessens and farm and cheese shops. www.doddingtondairy.co.uk
- Parlour Made, Sedgefield: Blue cheese is a must at any festive celebration. The mild and creamy Mordon Blue – a two gold star winner at this year’s Great Taste Awards – is made by Neil and Carol Peacock on their 240 acre farm in County Durham.
They also make a range of other artisan cheeses (try their soft with crushed chilli) using milk from their herd of 120 Holstein/Friesian cows. Stockist details at www.parlourmade.co.uk
Vineyards may not yet be dotting the area’s south facing slopes, but there’s no shortage of other locally produced drinks to help you get into the spirit of the season.
- Alnwick Rum, Alnwick: A unique and complex blend of rums from Jamaica and Guyana, this drink is made to a unique old recipe first produced in Alnwick over 90 years ago.
A drink to keep the cold out and toast the festive season! Also keep an eye out for the new Percy Warmer rum liquor. www.alnwickrum.com
- Jack’s, Heddon-on-the-Wall: Based in the Tyne Valley there’s premium gin – blended from Northumbrian spring water and hedgerow botanicals, including elderflower - as well as Royal Sovereign Rum.
Try the gin with tonic made by Hexham-based Fentimans for a true Geordie gin and tonic! Stockists include Fenwick, Newcastle, Carruthers and Kent of Gosforth and The Wine Chambers in Tynemouth and North Shields. More stockists at www.jackcains.co.uk
- Lindisfarne Mead: This unique drink is made on Holy Island from honey vatted with fermented grape juice, herbs and water and fortified with fine spirits. There’s also a range of Lindisfarne liqueurs available. www.lindisfarne-mead.co.uk