Land of milk and honey, and square sausage
Besides the scenery, the prospect of a breakfast of Ayrshire bacon, sausages, black pudding and haggis is another big draw
Ayrshire farmers have all the perfect ingredients for producing top quality, flavoursome meat. Mother nature provides the ideal conditions for farming; a mild climate, coupled with high rainfall ensures animals are grazing on lush pastures. With a rich and successful farming heritage too, some might say Ayrshire is the ideal land of milk and honey.
The field to fork cycle works well, thanks to a close collaboration between the farming community, hospitality sector and retail market. Additional drive and enthusiasm from organisations such as The Ayrshire Food Network, a consortium of major hospitality and food businesses, means that sourcing local produce is made easy. Clearly, there is some joined-up thinking going on.
Local beef, lamb and pork products are widely available and Ayrshire residents are justifiably proud of the region’s ability to be largely self sufficient. From farms to smallholdings, there’s a rich and diverse range of livestock being reared and good quality meat products being produced.
At Nethergate Farm in Dunlop, Arlene and Thomson MacKenzie have been successfully farming rare and heritage breed cows, pigs and sheep since 2005. Both speak passionately about the animals they breed and are rightly proud of them. At their 47-acre farm on the hills above Dunlop, they rear a range of native Scottish and primitive cattle including White Park cows alongside Tamworth, Gloucester Old Spot and Saddleback rare breed pigs. These breeds are particularly well suited to rough grazing and foraging, and therefore thrive in Scottish weather. They will happily stay outside even in the coldest of Scottish winters.
The MacKenzies are an excellent example of a field to fork success story, with their strong desire to preserve sustainable farming methods. The addition of an on-site butchery is a natural extension, and further proof of their determination to provide the very best meat to their customers. Alongside traditional cuts of meat, the couple produce their own top quality sausages and bacon; popular within the area’s hotels as key ingredients in the traditional Scottish breakfast.
It’s perhaps a cliché that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but as B&B owners in the area will attest, it’s also an essential and unique selling point, as many visitors look forward to a hearty breakfast before heading out to explore. Of course, the area’s speciality pork products, the famous Ayrshire bacon, sausages, black pudding and haggis are favourites.
Naturally local butchers and producers are keen to ensure that their meat is gracing the area’s best establishments. At Thomson’s Square Sausage in Craigie, the traditional Scottish square sausage is their key product. Managing director Janie Thomson attributes its popularity on the breakfast menu to the company’s handmade production methods and the consistent high quality using carefully sourced Scotch beef. It’s a similar story for the area’s haggis and black pudding producers.
The opportunity in Ayrshire for serving a uniquely sourced local breakfast has been embraced by the the members of ABBA, the Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association. They lack no imagination when it comes to breakfast. ABBA is committed to serving the best Ayrshire produce to guests so menus are punctuated with references to local producers and suppliers. Offerings include local free range eggs, alongside other traditional Scottish breakfast delicacies such as haggis, square sausage and black pudding. There’s been collaboration between ABBA and Kilmarnock-based Cook School Scotland to help members with cooking and food presentation skills and this can be seen in the high standards and choice of breakfasts being served to guests. As part of 2015 Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, ABBA are also working with students at Ayrshire College to develop a flagship Ayrshire breakfast.
There has been a suggestion to create an Ayrshire continental breakfast using the locally made pork and venison charcuterie and cheeses from the area’s artisan producers. An ideal option for this would be the new range of top quality pork and venison charcuterie from Kilmarnock-based company Scottish Charcuterie. Surely a great choice for visitors and a perfect Scottish twist on the continental style.