History of the Ploughman's Lunch
Seen as a classic pub fare and best enjoyed with a pint of English Real Ale, you would be forgiven in thinking the Ploughman’s lunch harks back to pre-industrial days. However, the term ‘Ploughman’s Lunch’ is believed to have originated in the 1950s, as part of a marketing campaign to encourage the British public to eat more cheese after years of wartime rations (a campaign we would have wholeheartedly supported). Of course, the lunch of bread, cheese and beer was not invented in the 1950s and these ingredients have been combined in the English diet since time began, or at least since the English have made cheese.
The earliest mention of this traditional combination is from 1394 where Pierce, the Ploughman’s Crede (a rhyming poem) cites the traditional ploughman's meal of bread, cheese, and beer. Bread and cheese formed the basis of the diet of English rural labourers for centuries: skimmed-milk cheese, supplemented with a little lard and butter, was their main source of fats and protein, with onions as the ‘favoured condiment’.
So how do you create the perfect Ploughman’s Lunch?
Would you be surprised to find out that we think you start with the cheese? And for us, it has got to be a strong, crumbly, cheddar, like Montgomery’s Cheddar, which is made by hand by Jamie Montgomery in North Cadbury near Yeovil. The Montgomery family are third generation farmers and make one of very few remaining examples of how Cheddar was made in the 19th century, using traditional rennet, unpasteurised milk, and pint starter. Montgomery’s Cheddar is one of the very few remaining examples of how Cheddar was made in the 19th century. Strong, nutty and robust, perfect for our Ploughman’s.
An essential part of the Ploughman’s lunch are the pickled onions, and Paxton & Whitfield do a fine line in pickled onions too. Perfectly spiced in sweet vinegar, these onions add the required tang to your plate.
Pick up some bread from your local bakery; we are partial to a sourdough baguette but could be persuaded to include a slice of a good rustic country bread instead.
And finally, the extras; some people insist on ham (we would not be so prescriptive), but we do like a dollop of pickle, our Number 93 Ale chutney does the job. A few slices of apple and a nice heap of watercress add some greenery to the plate. And it would not be a Ploughman’s lunch without a generous slice of salted butter.
Assemble the plate, pour a glass of ale (Paxton and Whitfield Number 93 Real Ale, if you are asking) and dive in. Simple. Delicious. Heaven.