The ploughman’s is one of Britain’s most traditional and best loved lunches and has been served in pubs all over the county for over 50 years. But did you know that you can source all of the ingredients for this well-loved lunch in Lincolnshire?
A traditional ploughman’s consists of large chunks of crusty bread, cheeses and pickled onions. As the name of the lunch suggests, it was a meal packed up to take out and eat in the fields as it was considered cheap and sustainable. Where the name and the different elements of the meal came from have been lost over time, although there are references to such a lunch in 18th century literature. The first recorded use of the phrase ‘ploughman’s lunch’ was recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary in 1837, by author John G. Lockhart in his book Memoirs of the life of Sir Walter Scott.
Food historians think that the name and term for ploughman’s lunch evolved in the late 1950’s and early 60’s when the English Cheese and the Milk Marketing Boards launched a PR campaign to get pubs to sell more cheese, as part of their lunches. Britain was still recovering from World War II and during the 1950’s dairy products were still rationed. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the lunch became popular.
In Lincolnshire the ploughman’s as we know it today consists of the three basics, but it will often be served with locally made chutneys, slices of cold meat and even a warm Lincolnshire sausage.
Bread: (I have not managed to find anyone locally in Lincolnshire that produces gluten free bread, but it is possible to buy some a nice sour dough bread, or why not try making your own).
The perfect bread for a ploughman’s should be chunky, crusty and locally sourced. Ticklebelly Lane Bakery in North Scarle bakes all of their bread and owner and baker James Cook suggests a malt house loaf. “The malt house has a lovely malty flavour and goes fantastically well with a whole range of local cheeses and pickles,” says James.
Other breads that James recommends are a pumpkins seed twist that proves a nice nutty flavour to go with cheese or for something a little more exotic Ticklebelly Bakery make a “rosemary and sea salt focaccia, the salt cut through the flavour of the cheese and rosemary really compliments any meats you might have on your plate.” The bakery makes all of their breads in a traditional way and they source alot ingredients locally.
Traditionally the bread in a ploughman’s was a cottage loaf, which is characterised by its shape, which is two round loaves, one on top of the other, with the upper one being smaller. Many local bakers will be able to recommend a great crusty bread to go with a number of local cheeses.
After the Milk Marketing Boards PR campaign in the 1960’s, Cheddar cheese became one of the most popular cheeses as part of a ploughman’s.
Lincolnshire has a great number of cheese producers and is well known for its Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, a hard unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese.
Tim Jones, director of Lincolnshire Poacher, and his brother Richard, are 4th generation farmers and it was Richard who started making Lincolnshire Poacher in 1992. “Lincolnshire Poacher is a cross between a West Country Cheddar and an Alpine Cheese. It is slightly sweeter than a Cheddar and has a smoother texture, it sits nicely in between the two. You get a slightly tropical pineapple taste with it, particularly in the summer when the cows are out to graze,” said Tim.
Lincolnshire Poacher makes a great cheese for a ploughman’s as it is matured longer than most cheeses says Tim, “it has a full flavour and it is a good eating cheese.” He added: “You can eat lots of it and it has a nice balanced flavour but a full flavour. It goes well with lots of ingredients, particularly sweet chutneys, it is robust enough to hold its own.”
Pickles and chutneys:
Picked onions are one of the key ingredients in a ploughman’s lunch. Their crunchy texture and zingy taste compliment the creamy cheese and crusty bread. Nowadays you will find chutney as well as picked onions to compliment the local cheeses.
Barbara Daughtrey is the founder of A Little Luxury, a small business based in Sleaford who make over 15 varieties of chutneys and jams. “I use local produce where I can to make the chutneys”, says Barbara. For a ploughman’s Barbara would recommend a fruity chutney, she said: “You don’t want the chutney to overtake the flavours of the cheese or any other ingredients on the plate, you want it to enhance it. You don’t want anything really strong, unless you have a strong cheese that will balance it.”
“A nice one that I make and is my favourite is an apple and fig one, it is a good stiff chutney that you can have a big dollop of and can spread it on a cracker or crusty bread and then put your cheese on top.”
Meats or pies:
In Lincolnshire there is such a thing as a Lincolnshire ploughman’s, the twist is that it comes with locally made haslet or warm Lincolnshire sausages.
Dawn Jacklin, landlady and chef of the Railway Tavern, near Aby in Louth has come up with the Lincolnshire version of a ploughman’s lunch after she opened the pub in 2003. She said: “Our Lincolnshire ploughman’s includes Cote Hill Blue cheese and Lincolnshire sausages, or occasionally we will do it with haslet, it allows people to try two different Lincolnshire products.”
“People love our Lincolnshire version and with the sausages. You have something hot on your plate and that is different, it is a great seller.”
Wimberley Hall Farm Shop near Louth has been open for three years and they sell and make their very own haslet. Fiona Busance is the assistant manager and is proud to support local producers, she said: “We have a number of good local products and we are known for the freshness of our produce, we have our own deli counter that has a great range of cold meats, pies and Lincolnshire cheeses.”