The Lake District has some fine foodstuffs such as Lythe Valley Damsons and Herdwick Mutton , and plenty of great restaurants, Sharrow Bay springing immediately to mind. And it has Kendal Mint Cake.
It may be that Kendal Mint Cake can trace its roots back to the importation of sugar at Whitehaven and Workington . Possibly it is the descendant of sticky confections from the Stuart era. Others claim it was the result of an accident when a Kendal sweet maker took his eye off the production of glacier mints.
In the form now found it is perhaps better considered as fuel for walkers and mountaineers than as a delicacy, though some refinements to the basic sugar (brown as well as the more usual white) and peppermint hit are available, notably chocolate-coated versions, and it certainly has its devotees in the sweeter-toothed amongst us.
The basic product is a mix of sugar, glucose and water, with the cooling boiled product flavoured with peppermint oils (the blending of the oils being a trade secret of course). The still hot mixture is rubbed or stirred until it achieves a grainy or crystalline texture.
The Victorians were said to have been big fans of the sugary slabs, called by some the original energy bars. The names of explorers and mountaineers are dropped by the various manufacturers as endorsements of the confectionery’s powerful properties, with Shackleton and Hillary to the fore – Hillary and Tensing are said to have eaten it atop Everest, and it certainly has enough calories packed into it to boost tired limbs.
If it helps you see more of the great British outdoors, all to the good. Just don’t expect a great gourmet moment if you are trying it for the first time.
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