THE NATURAL resource on which the Worcestershire town of Droitwich was founded more than 2,000 years ago is expected to make an appearance for the first time in 95 years at the town’s annual food festival this summer.
Salt extracted from local springs containing the strongest natural salt water known to man was, for centuries, the lifeblood of the local area. It is the reason Droitwich was established and went on to flourish – the brine salt concentration has been measured at 42 per cent which is more than 10 times that of normal seawater.
The salt industry declined in the late 19th century and salt production in Droitwich eventually ceased in 1922 although the natural brine, created due to the local beds of rock salt, was used for therapeutic bathing until 2008 and diluted brine is still used at the Lido baths for swimming.
This summer organisers of the Droitwich Spa Food and Drink Festival, which takes place on Saturday June 17, are planning to have Droitwich salt available for guest chefs to use in cookery demonstrations.
Patrick Davies, founder and organiser of the festival now in its fifth year, said: “Wychavon District Council has the rights to the brine and were have been given permission to extract 1,000 litres of it to make salt.”
He said they are planning to have ingredients with Droitwich salt, such as salted fudge and salted butter, available for chefs to use in their recipes. Celebrity chef Brian Turner will be opening the one-day event, which is being held in Lido Park this year, and giving a cookery masterclass in the Food Demonstration Kitchen.
Patrick added: “Brian Turner will use it in whatever recipes he does. That is a really local feature of the festival this year and it’s new because we have not had Droitwich salt to consume for years.”
Other chefs to be seen in the demonstration kitchen are to be announced but Patrick said the event is on course, once again, to be a great event attracting visitors from far and wide as well as the local area.
There will be 100 stalls, including many high class local food producers, as well as the Worcestershire Farmers Market and a handful of top quality specialist food businesses from further afield.
Patrick said about 80 of the stalls are already booked but the closing date for stall applications is Monday April 20.
The festival will also include the Best Sausage Competition where local producers can submit their tasty offerings to be judged by food critic and writer Charles Campion, who lives in Crowle, Tony Checketts, of Checketts Fine Foods, Ombersley, and BBC Hereford and Worcester presenter Andrew Easton.
Another feature, sponsored by Andrew Grant estate agents, is a Junior Bake Off where youngsters can bake their own sweet treat to bring along to the festival and be judged on the day. There are two categories – one for children aged five to nine and another for those aged 10 to 15 years. An adult cake baking competition is also being held.
“We are trying to make it more of a family event this year. With it being in the Lido Park it naturally lends itself to families. There will be music and singers and I am really excited about the kids’ corner sponsored by Nicol and Co,” said Patrick.
He said there are a lot of food festivals in the calendar now but one of the reasons why people chose the Droitwich event is because of the variety of foods available to buy and eat on the day.
“I have been to other events where they have half a dozen burger vans. We have a variety of different foods and we make sure there aren’t lots of the same type of food being sold - giving people a choice.
“The festival is also free for people to visit. That is important to a lot of people. They want to be able to walk around and heave enough money to buy things. Some of the other festivals are beginning to charge now. All the entertainment is free too.”
For more information about the Droitwich Sap Food and Drink Festival visit http://www.droitwichspafestival.co.uk/ or https://www.facebook.com/DroitwichSpaFest/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The event is run by a committee of volunteers and is supported by Wychavon District Council, Worcestershire County Council, Droitwich Town Council and local businesses.