The Home Of Liquorice
Watch out for Heather on BBC One Countryfile on the Autumn Special 18th October. Mr Craven himself came to the farm and filmed with our pumpkins and dug up the first propper liquorice root harvested on this farm and the first one in the area since the 1950's, a first for John and ourselves. The most exciting bit is that fresh root really does taste so much better than dried imported root that we have all been used to seeing since the demise of pontefract liquorice. September 2016 we will host a harvest which will be open to everyone, so please look out for the dates which will be announced via the website and social media, August 2016. We are bringing liquorice back to Pontefract!
As Featured On The BBC's ONE SHOW, Great British Menu and BBC Radio 2!
Pontefract has a long history with the liquorice plant, dating back to the Crusades. Today the links are with confectionary manafacturing and the companies Tangerine and Haribo, both large employers in the town. However we don't want to forget 'Pontefract's Roots!' and thus Farmer Copleys has decided to bring liquorice home.
Farmer Copley's have planted just under 100 locally grown plants with the intention of harvesting a Liquorice Garth in the 2016. The Liquorice Garth will take a has taken 3 years to get to this stage and Countryfile were here for the initial harves, it was very exciting as the root (ther harvestable element) was actually there! The first harvest produced roots upto my height a full 5ft 2 in, the roots will grow upto 25 ft in lenght and 4 ft deep acording to the history books. Although Heather is an Agronomist by trade there was little tutoring with regard to the crop of Liquorice so it is quite a learning curve... for instance who knew that rabbits enjoyed liquorice root! its not in any book but its 100% true. Once the Garth is established 2016 we (Farmer Copley's) will be able to start harvesting the root, which the majority of the local older generation, can fondly remember chewing the sweet root as a child, no doubt their grandchildren are going to have the same experience!
We are currently applying for a PDO for Pontefract Liquorice with DEFRA but these things take a while. We aim to produce a liquorice extract or essence (our team of chefs are currently working on this) which can be used by chefs around the world and thus on their menus they can put for example, Cannon of Lamb served with a Pontefract Liquorice PDO sauce etc, thus putting Pontefract back on the map.
We have teamed up with Great Newsome Brewey in Yorkshire winner of the worlds best beer award 2013, and formulated the Liquorice Lads Stout, which is to honour the men that used to dig the root by hand in the trenches of the garths and the women that used to stamp the marks into the coins - Pontefract Cakes. The Stout was submitted to the world beer awards this year and in the category of flavoured beer was awarded a medal, so it does actually taste good rather than been just a novelty beer. Liquorice Lads Stout is available at the Farm Shop open 7 days a week, just 2 mins from Xscape - Junction 32 of the M62.
Liquorice plants are grown locally at Brandy Carr Nurseries, Wakefield, by a lovely gentleman Mr Ben Asquith. Ben is always at the liquorice festival and his web address is www.brandycarrnurseries.co.uk, so if you'd like your own liquorice plant in the garden pay him a visit, but be warned if the plant likes the location it can take over!
The Liquorice plant was brought to Pontefract from the Mediteranean, couresty of the Dominican Monks in the early 16th Century, when they settled close to Pontefract Castle. (Pontefract means 'broken bridge'!).The Liquorice is unable to flower in our clooler climate however that doesn't matter as it is the root that we are after. The monks extracted the liquorice juice from the roots as a medicine for easing early coughs and upset stomachs, it was also used as a pain relief in medieval times during child birth. Today in Japan they use liquroice as sutures and other medicinal purposes, this is due to it's anti-inflamatory properties, some japanese representives came to Pontefract Liquorice Festival a few years ago in assocaiation with the then 'Liquorice Trust'. The Liquorice plant thrives in rich, sandy, free draining soils, allowing the roots to extend upto 25 foot in lenght. The top of the plant, the liquorice bush grows to approximately 7 foot tall. The root is the part of the plant that we harvest as it is sweet, people dig it up (wash it) and chew it as a mouth freshener! Once acre of Liquorice Garth can produce 4 to 5 tonnes of harvested liquorice root every 3 to 4 years. Not all of the root is harvested as some is required to be left to allow th plant to keep growing to produce more from for its next harvest.
The Famous Pontefract Cakes were born in 1614, when Sir John Saville applied at stamp to the round chewy liquroice disk. Pontefract Cakes were initially used as a medicine throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Pontefract Cakes are made to a special recipe which includes the raw boiled liquorice mash, which is allowed to cool and dry for a week prior to pressing. Harbio the well known confectionery company aquired Dunhills in 1994. On a Wedensday in Pontefract town center you can smell the liquorice as they boil it in the factory!
Every July, Pontefract holds its annual Liquroice Festival in the town center. Average visitor numbers are around 36,000. Farmer Copley's is always present, selling our wares of Pork & Liquorice Pies, Liquorice Stout, then in the farm shop 1 mile down the A645 towards Wakefield we celebrate the Festival in the shop for the whole of July with daily tastings and other liquorice products such as, Liquorice Ice Cream, Liquorice Bacon, Pork & Liquorice Sausages and of course Liquorie Sweets in every shape, size and variety. 'Mr Fish' our fishmonger is currently experimenting with Sea Bass & Liquorice for 2016 Festival, so watch this space.
The liquorice visitor centre is due to commence building in Novemeber 2015 and open in the Spring/Summer of 2016.