A few years ago we were looking for a sweetner for some granola recipes, something UK produced and minimally processed. When our apple syrup order from Liberty Fields arrived we knew we were onto something special - we quickly added them to our short list of brilliant Guest Producers.
Amy Oboussier tells a little more of the Liberty Fields story:
In the picturesque landscape of Dorset, four friends united by their passion for food, biodiversity, and innovative land-use embarked on a remarkable journey. Robert Imlach, Vicky Morland, Pete Lemmey, and Alison Lemmey saw an opportunity to transform an organic dairy farm into something truly unique.
It began with Robert making salad dressings and mayonnaise, he started to explore the possibility of sourcing all his ingredients as locally as possible. At the same time, he became fascinated by the Italian methods of balsamic vinegar production. He realised that locally grown apples could be processed and matured in exactly the same way as grapes are to make balsamic vinegar. He began by buying apples from orchards in Dorset and Somerset, but quickly realised how much better it would be if he could select the varieties grown for the exact right combination of taste and flavours.
Robert's idea gained momentum when he shared it with his friends. Pete Lemmey, with a deep interest in organic farming, was looking for innovative ways to diversify. Ali, a seasoned horticulturist, was eager to nurture an orchard. Vicky, armed with her marketing and sales expertise, recognized the opportunity to introduce these unique products to the world. Liberty Fields was born!
Planning the orchard began in 2009 and the following year, with the help of friends, volunteers, and expert advice, the Liberty Fields team had planted their first 250 trees in field on Pete and Alison Lemmey's organic dairy farm. Today, Liberty Fields spans 12 acres of land has 1700 apple trees and 45 perry pears from over 50 varieties, all of which come from the South West.
In less than ten years Liberty Fields had begun using the apples to make apple balsamic vinegar and apple syrup as well as cider and distilled spirits.
Dorset's rich history finds a place in Liberty Fields' nomenclature. Thomas Hollis, an influential figure of the 18th century who campaigned for civil rights and liberties, named the farms on his estate after his heroes and ideals. Liberty Farm survives along with Marvell Farm, Locke Farm and Harvard Farm. Field names within the farms also commemorate Hollis' philosphical and political interests – Brutus, Cassius, Cicero and Pythagoras amongst others.
Cicero and Pythagoras are now home to orchards at Liberty Fields. Cicero, the larger of the two, boasts the Dorset Mother Orchard, a treasure trove of rare local cider apple varieties. The Mother Orchard is made available to others wanting cuttings to start their own Dorset orchards - a library of trees - something Thomas Hollis, who donated a large collection of bookd to Harvard Universtity, would no doubt approve of. Pythagoras, on the border with Somerset and further from the farm buildings is home not only apples but also perry pear trees.
Liberty Fields' Apple Syrup really is Dorset's answer to maple syrup, but unlike maple syrup there's a tang of acid in the sweetness that lends itself to sweet and savoury cooking as well as use in drinks. The syrup contains no additives or added sugar and over 2kg of apples go into each bottle!
Apple Syrup is perfect for baking, cocktails, salad dressing, drizzling on pancakes, porridge and more.
Liberty Fields Apple Balsamic Vinegar is unlike a lot of industrially made balsamic where flavouring and colouring are added. Instead this rich, intense and deeply flavoured 6-year old apple balsamic vinegar is made using the traditional Italian method of reduction and concentration of the juice over a lengthy period of time.
“Wow it tastes incredible - I even wanted more of it neat off the spoon… Still sitting here after dinner sniffing the bottle! Will order it as xmas presents!”
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We've launched ten pulses and grains from British farms as part of Holland & Barrett's transformation of their food range, available in their stores across the UK. It's a fantastic opportunity to make British-grown fava beans, carlin peas and quinoa, along with other pulses and cereals, available more widely and to support more diverse farming.
Down a warren of country lanes, not far from the Tamar Valley in Cornwall, is Julie Bailey's orchard Lower Trelabe, where she grows historic local varieties of apple and makes her delicious Apple Natural apple shreds, traditional fruit leathers that contain only the natural plant sugars.