Cumbria Tradition Food of Cumbria

Hodgsons Butchers Keswick tatie pie by Graeme DougalThe traditional foods of Cumbria evolved from the land itself: farms raised lamb for meat dishes, pigs for sausage and ham, and cattle for dairy products. The moors and mountains provided wild game such as duck and deer. The seas and lakes were replete with herring, char, shrimp, trout and salmon.

Cumberland Sausage

Hodgsons Butchers Keswick sausage closeup by Graeme DougalHomemade Cumberland sausage comes coiled like a rope and is sometimes sold by length. They can run up to four feet long and are often baked whole. They have a high meat with spices and herbs added in natural casings.

Paul Hevey of Lakes Speciality Foods won the National Champion award for Britain's Best Sausage in 2007 and was crowned National King of the Banger. The company is a specialist butchers (meat suppliers) who supply locally sourced product with a seasonal slant. National King of the Banger AwardTheir products, which have won several awards (Pork and Black pudding, Cumberland, Pork, Mango and Stilton are all gold medal winners), have been developed to ensure traceability, locality and low food mileage. In addition to buying directly from them, you can also purchase their products from their website

Cumberland Ham

Mackays Cumberland sausage label by Graeme DougalTraditionally dry-cured Cumberland ham is first salted and sometimes rubbed with brown sugar after which it is cured for a month, then washed, dried, and hung up for two or more months to mature. Chemical additives and preservatives are never used. It is important to note that this traditional curing process does not cook but preserves the ham, and cooking needs to be done before eating.

Hodgsons Butchers Keswick meat close up by Graeme DougalSome places to find traditional hams and sausages are:
Woodalls of Waberthwaite:
Huddlestons Butchers:
Border County Foods:
Hodgsons Butchers: Keswick
Mackays Butchers
Lakes Specialty Foods:


Roaming free on the fells sheep graze on the natural herbage thus giving their meat a quality flavour.

Sheherds or cottage pie is made with either lamb or beef to which onions, mushrooms, carrots, pureed tomatoes and spices are added, and all are cooked together. The mixture is then put in a dish and topped with cooked, mashed potatoes and cheese; then heated in the oven.

Another type of stew is known as Cumberland tattie pot. This recipe uses the same ingredients except for tomatoes and adds swede and black pudding, then layers potatoes with the meat mixture. Pickled red cabbage is a side dish.

A traditional sauce served with ham or lamb, Cumberland sauce, is made from the juices of an orange and a lemon to which redcurrant jelly, mustard, port and ginger have been added. All ingredients are cooked until well incorporated.

Slacks, a family run organic farm, produces bacon, sausage and ham in a traditional stone barn.


The Hallsford family farm, at Hethersgill near Carlisle, sells beef, pork and lamb from traditional breeds.

At Lyth near Kendal, Savin Hill Farm, raises pure bred British White cattle and Middle White pigs, producing marbled beef, pork and dry cured bacon and hams.

For prime rosé veal try Heave's Cumbrian farm, winner of Westmorland's best managed farm award 2008. The Mason family, who have farmed here for 100 years, practice environmental management and conservation. They have a herd of pedigree Holstein Friesian dairy cows and North Country Mule sheep. Visit their website at for locations where the products are sold.


Game, fish, sausage, cheese and more can be found at the Old Smokehouse, , at Brougham Hall. Other smoked and cured meats and game are sold by Saddleback at Aldby Farm, Dacre. They use local products as much as possible.


Thursby Thornby Dairy Cheese Shop by Graeme DougalA number of dairy farms produce their own cheese. The butter is sometimes used to make Cumberland rum butter. Butter is mixed with brown sugar, Fond Ewe Fine Cheeses Ltdnutmeg and rum. A old custom saw it served with oatcakes to celebrate the birth of a baby. On christening day visitors would leave coins in the butter bowl, supposedly to bring a prosperous life for the baby.


Herring, often stuffed with a breadcrumb and seasoning mixture, is served with a mustard sauce.

The Artic char, left behind by the ice age, is served potted or in fish pie.


Historic apples grown in Cumbria include autumn harvest, Carlisle codlin, forty shilling, lemon square, longstart, Nelsons favourite, and greenup pippin (found in a Keswick garden in the late 1700s).

The nutty-tasting damsons, a type of plum grown in the Lyth Valley and harvested in September, are used for making and flavouring tarts, pies, cakes, ice-cream, cheese, jam, Westmorland plum chutney (kernels from stones can be added to add an almond flavour), wine, punch, gin and beer. In the past they were used to dye cotton produced in the mills of Manchester. A well known dish is damson and apple tansy. Apples and damsons are cooked in an egg custard.

At Howbarrows organic farmshop, 1.5 miles from Cartmel, you can purchase organic fruit and vegetables, organic herbs, lamb and chicken, and a variety of puddings including dairy and gluten free ones. For complete details visit their website:


Cumberland Honey Mustard has been an Alston product since 1983. The company makes seven varieties: original, garlic, horseradish, green peppercorn, vulcan, whisky, and organic. For full details and to order visit their website at

Marmalade lovers should put in their diary the annual Marmalade Festival at Dalemain Historic House and Gardens at Dalemain, Penrith. Over 500 entries in eleven categories mean there is plenty to judge from for a winner. There are tastings for visitors and special children's events.

For the yearly date and a list of events visit the website


Kennedys Chocolate at Orton by Graeme DougalHomemade chocolates are sold in a number of Cumbrias specialist grocery shops. Toffee is another favourite. Photo Penrith toffee shop window display

A whig is a type of flavoured bread, traditionally baked in Lakeland villages with each village having its own variation on the recipe. In Hawkshead caraway seed was added.

Grasmere Ginger bread shop by Graeme DougalGrasmere Gingerbread is a well known Cumbrian treat as is Kendal Mint Cake.

For sticky toffee pudding try the Cartmel Village Shop . For other puddings contact Country Puddings at Lodge Farm, Dacre,

Lucys Specialist Grocery products Ambleside by Graeme DougalFor a variety of homemade goodies stocked in many Cumbrian stores, try Country Fare at Dalefoot, Lucys Specialist shop in Ambleside or Grahams in Penrith.

Hill Farm Foods at Thurstonfield, Carlisle is a mecca for those people who cannot eat gluten. A wide variety of gluten free and wheat free baked goods are available.

Melmerby Village Bakery by Graeme DougalAnother bakery that makes both traditional and many gluten and wheat free products is the Village Bakery at Melmerby. Order online at

To purchase local food try the farmers markets. is the website of the Cumbria Organics. Here you will find a consumer and trade directory, a list of places to stay and information about organic farming.

Lakes Speciality Foods
5 Bankside Barn
Crook Road
Staveley, Cumbria. LA8 9NH
Tel. 015394 822713
Fax. 015394 822718

Photo courtesy Graeme Dougal , Fond Ewe Fine Cheeses Ltd , Lakes Speciality Foods and Furness Fish Co

© 1997 The Cumbria Directory. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including images, and reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from The Cumbria Directory is prohibited.

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