The month of August was our lucky month this time around with Universal Yums as we had the chance to try some goodies from not one but four different countries. The United Kingdom is comprised of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland which are all separate countries who happen to be united under one common government. From pickled onion chips to butter toffee and melt in your mouth shortbread cookies, each country has their own distinct cuisine. The cuisine isn’t the only thing though that the United Kingdom is unique for, they have also invented and shown the world classic literature, iconic sports, and of course modern music with a surprising amount of our culture today being influenced by the English.
Mature Cheddar and Onion Chips
Lingering on bus floors and cafeteria tables, the intense smell of cheddar and onion permeates throughout the nation mainly because cheese and onion is the most popular flavor of chips or crisps as they’re known in the UK. This flavor was first introduced in the late 1900’s and has since beat out other popular flavors such as salt and vinegar and paprika. These bold and flavorful chips are bursting with an aged cheddar smokiness and strong bursts of onion flavoring.
Rhubarb and Custard Chewy Candies
In North America, rhubarb is most commonly found baked into pies and other pastries and is normally accompanied by the sweetness of strawberries. In the United Kingdom, however, this stalky vegetable can be found virtually everywhere and brings a unique flavor to both sweet and savory dishes. With these unusual candies, the freshness of the rhubarb is balanced perfectly with the richness and sweetness of the custard which will not only leave you wanting more, but also have you wishing that all vegetables tasted this good.
Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar Chips
Almost everyone knows that fish and chips is widely popular throughout the UK, with over 8,500 fish and chip shops being found all across the United Kingdom. The beloved dish is traditionally prepared by taking fresh, white fish, coating it in a light batter and then laying it on top of a bed of thick cut fries after it has been fried. The entire dish is then doused in salt and then drenched with vinegar. While we unfortunately aren’t able to try the famous dish in our Universal Yums box, we will be trying the next best thing which are these salt and cider vinegar chips that are created using the same vinegar that is used for the fish and chips for a perfectly tangy and yummy snack.
Chocolate Chip Butter Shortbread
Scottish shortbread is widely regarded as some of the best in the entire world and with these cookies we’ll be getting a taste of it. The crumbly texture of shortbread is achieved by introducing large amounts of fat into the mixture as well as high percentages of butter to create that melt in your mouth experience. This traditional Scottish shortbread is made from a premium butter recipe with a sprinkling of rich, chocolate chips for a seriously addicting sweet treat.
English Toffee Bar
Made by one of England’s most renowned toffee companies, this buttery toffee dates all the way back to the 1800’s and is even the Queen of England’s favorite toffee of all time. The founder of the company, Edward Joseph Walker, began making the buttery treat in a small candy shop in Longton. His shop very quickly became popular with the locals mainly because of his toffee which was essentially just a slab that needed to be broken apart with a special hammer. The recipe for this toffee hasn’t changed over the years and is still made the traditional way by mixing milk, butter, and molasses together and then heating it all up to form it into solid blocks of goodness. Surprisingly enough though, this toffee isn’t overly brittle and hard like most of it’s kind and while it’s firm enough to be cracked, it is also soft and creamy enough to melt in your mouth.
Johnny’s Pickled Onion Rings
Small pearl onions soaked in salt, sugar, and vinegar have long been a British pub tradition and can be found in almost every bar throughout the country. While they are sometimes eaten directly from the jar, they can also be served as part of a popular British pub platter known as ‘Ploughman’s lunch’ which consists of cheese, bread, ham, and pickled veggies. The taste of pickled onions is perfectly embodied in these pungent pickled onion rings with their strong oniony zest and vibrant tang, they sure pack a punch.
Haggis and Black Pepper Chips
Haggis is the national dish of Scotland and is a pudding made from a mixture of sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs mixed with onions, grains, and spices which is then all boiled together inside of an animal’s stomach. This famous pudding is commonly served with mashed potatoes and root vegetables. While this combination might not sound appealing to most, it is eaten by thousands and thousands of Scottish people each year so it was a no brainer that we would need to get a taste of it this month. With these haggis flavored chips, we will get to taste the entire meat and potatoes meal rolled into a crunchy chip without harming any animals to get it.
Wagon Wheels Jammie
As one of the United Kingdom’s most famous treats, over 125 million of these wagon wheel cookies are eaten yearly by the people in the UK. These wildly popular treats consist of a gooey marshmallow fluff and a dollop of raspberry jam mixed together between two crumbly cookies and then covered in a layer of creamy, milk chocolate.
Chocolate Covered Cookies with Toffee
Yet another toffee flavored treat, these chocolate covered cookies are filled with creamy toffee for the perfect treat for those with a sweet tooth. These famous biscuits are almost always enjoyed with a cup of tea which makes them even more delicious, if that’s even possible.
Chewy Toffees with Treacle
While at first glance these candies look like your ordinary candy, there is way more than meets the eye. These English toffees (again with the toffee) are packed with a substance known as treacle which is a sweet liquid that is similar to molasses. As simple as it may sound, these candies or more specifically the treacle that is found inside, has quite the history. Legend has it that the treacle is mined underground below England and that in the 18th century, the golden liquid was first discovered by a teenage boy who found the treacle inside of a cave. He and his family began selling the liquid to surrounding villages and it gained massive popularity in no time. It is then said that not long after the discovery of treacle, the boy overheard wealthy businessmen plotting to take over and to commercialize the treacle mine. The family then decided to tell the businessmen that the supply had dried up and so they filled the cave with dirt and rocks. While there are many secrets surrounding treacle and if the mines really were dried up and so forth, one thing is for certain, after taking a bite of these candies, you’ll be left wanting more.
Blackcurrant and Champagne Candies
Made to taste like the popular French cocktail, Kir Royale, these pink and white candies are the perfect blend of sweet champagne and tangy blackcurrant. You may be wondering though why these candies are found in a United Kingdom box rather than one filled with French snacks, and the answer to that is because of the blackcurrant. The tiny purple fruit is one of the UK’s most popular fruits and is used heavily throughout their cuisine. Blackcurrant is also regularly exported to other European countries where it is most often used to mix into drinks such as the Kir Royale. Aside from being found inside of these candies, blackcurrant is mainly used for baking and cooking due to it’s tart and not so sweet taste.
Lime Candies Filled with Chocolate
Though it might sound odd to some, the combination of lime and chocolate is an English classic and has been popular since about the 1980’s. These old fashioned boiled sweets consist of a hard lime-flavored shell which encases a smooth, cocoa center for a unique blend of nutty richness and tangy freshness.
While many, including the Italian wine company Carpene Malvolti, believe that prosecco is strictly Italian, the people of the United Kingdom have different opinions on the subject. According to them, an English scientist named Christopher Merrett was experimenting with sparkling wine over two hundred years ago, even before the French created champagne. Rumor has it that there is a letter that Christopher wrote to the Royal Society explaining how English wine makers were in the process of mixing sugar with wine to create the bubbly quality. While it is uncertain who was the first the create the sweet, bubbly drink, one thing for sure is that the Brits are the first to add prosecco into fudge to create this soft and fragrant flavored treat.
Now that our stomachs are filled with haggis chips, strange candies and enough toffee flavored products to last a lifetime, be sure to check out all of the other Universal Yums posts I’ve done to date and be sure to stick around until next month where we will be embarking on a culinary adventure to the country of Thailand.