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Cornish Fairings: A Hit Cookie from Cornwall

Cornish fairings are the traditional spicy ginger biscuits of Cornwall, in the United Kingdom. Originally, Fairings are gingerbread or ginger biscuits given to children. Men also give these are treats for their sweethearts.

Have you ever been to the United Kingdom? Did you ever wish to get a taste of the British cuisine? If so, then you’ve come to the right place. Today, we are going to talk about one of the most famous attractions from Cornwall, United Kingdom. We are, of course, talking about the Cornish fairings. But what are they? Well… as you will soon find out, fairings are usually biscuits that are sold at fares across the country. The most popular type of fairing in Cornwall is the aptly-named Cornish fairing, which got its name after the place of its origin. In this article we are going to talk about these biscuits. We are going to cover their history, the etymology behind its name, we are going to talk about its country of origin and its usage, the most popular produces which ingredients go into the mix and last-but-not-least, we are going to list some interesting trivia concerning them. For starters however, we are going to take a look at the place that spawned these ginger biscuits and the history behind one of their largest manufacturers, John Cooper Furniss. So, without further-ado, let us start with the background check on Cornwall.

Cornwall: The Place of the Fairing’s Birth

Cornwall, the birthplace of the Cornish fairings, is a ceremonial county in the southern-most part of England, UK. The county has a population of over five-hundred and sixty-thousand people, and it borders over an are of three-thousand and five-hundred square kilometres. The county is governed by the local council of Cornwall, ever since 2009, and it also includes the Isles of Scilly. The only city in Cornwall, and its administrative centre, is Truro. Cornwall, as the name suggests, is the homeland of the Cornish people and the world-famous Cornish fairings. Unlike the rest of England, which is mostly made up of people of Germanic descent, the Cornish present themselves as Celtic, and are recognized as such. They have a distinct culture, and the Cornish fairings are proof to that. This area of the United Kingdom has been inhabited since the prehistoric times, by numerous cultures and civilizations, including the Romans as well. Today, however, it is inhabited by the Cornish, who are recognized as a minority, both by the British government as well as the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National minorities. As such, the Cornish fairings also enjoy a protected status, as it is one of the traditional dishes of the Cornish cuisine.

The etymology behind the name is that the modern English iteration of the county’s name is a compound of two ancient demonyms for the area. These demonyms come from different languages, one from the Celtic language, specifically a Brythonic tribe and the other from Old English. The “Corn” in Cornwall is from Celtic, and it stands for the Cornovii, the Brythonic peninsula people. Other meanings for the word are “horn” or “headland”. The other part of the word, “wall” comes from Old English and means “foreigner” or “Roman”.

However, as is true for many other places, the inhabitants of Cornwall do not refer to it as “Cornwall”. Rather, it is known as Kernow to the local people. The Cornish fairings’ place of origin has an interesting history and is full of tantalizing facts. But for now, we are going to shift our attention to something that is of larger interest to us. We are going to check out the history of the man who popularised the Cornish fairings.

John Cooper Furniss: The Man Who Popularised the Cornish Fairings

John Cooper Furniss was the founder of the Furniss company, which is still active today. Although he is not credited with their invention, as fairings were baked and sold centuries before his birth, he is definitely one of its most important producers. The history of John Cooper Furniss and his company Furniss starts way back in the nineteenth century, in the year 1886 to be exact. It was in that year that J. C. Furniss opened up his very first teashop, in the town of Truro, Cornwall, which we know is the only city and the administrative centre of the entire county today. John Cooper Furniss was a perfectionist and used recipes that had been perfected all the way up to 1886. Besides being a perfectionist, John Cooper Furniss was also a hard-working man, as he would stay up almost all night preparing freshly baked ginger biscuits and the now world-renowned Cornish fairings. We can see through this that he was a baker through-and-through, as many quality bakers prepare their produce over night even today, so that the early customers are welcomed by freshly baked goods.

Many restaurants and producers today stress how the ingredients used in their products are sourced locally. J. C. Furniss did the same, and he insisted on using only the highest quality ingredients. His attention to detail and the fact that he used only the finest ingredients quickly established him as the leading biscuit baker in Truro, and the rest of Cornwall.

With the rising popularity of his Cornish fairings, J. C. Furniss had to think of new ways to meet the ever-increasing demand for his biscuits. He started mailing and shipping his products, and very soon, the fairings became a staple product on the shelves of every major food and sweets provider in Cornwall. The tradition and the method behind the baking of these biscuits has not changed much. While some new additions have certainly been included in the mix and new ways of production implemented, J. C. Furniss left a legacy which his heirs have proudly continued. The company that bears his name still produces fairings with as much dedication and love that their founder invested.

Another fun fact is that his company is now the only company in the world licensed to produce the one-and-only Cornish fairings. They are available country-wide, but also for anyone else wishing to experience the taste of the gingery biscuits.

The Cornish Fairings: For Starters

Cornish fairings are traditional spicy ginger biscuits from Cornwall, United Kingdom. Originally, Fairings were gingerbread or ginger biscuits given to children. Men also gave these as treats to their sweethearts.

The original Fairings were known as edible souvenirs that were sold at English fairs. Fairing variations vary per region; for instance, varieties in the Northern counties were decorated with Easter Paste eggs. In the Victorian times, the most popular Cornish version was the spiced ginger biscuit. Other popular edibles in Cornish fairs were the macaroons and the caraway comfits.

Cornish fairings became the most popular kind of Fairings because they could be stored for a long period of time. They are also great for eating on their own. They can also be dunked into tea or sprinkled ice cream.

Etymology

Cornish fairings are named thus because of the place of their origin – Cornwall. Fairing is a term used for all edible treats that sold at different fairs around the UK. Since these biscuits originated in Cornwall and were quite popular at fairs, the name Cornish fairings stuck with them and they have been known by that name ever since.

Country of Origin and Usage

The country of origin of Cornish fairings is, of course, the United Kingdom. In Cornwall, the fairings are made with ginger. This variety became very popular, especially when a Cornish producer, Furniss Foods, started selling them through mail order, starting in 1886. These biscuits were used by British young men of the middle and lower classes as gifts for their ladies.

Aside from being gifts for the children and young ladies, Cornish fairings are also the favourite biscuits of many Englishmen, which they enjoy with their afternoon tea. The spiciness of the biscuits cuts through the sweetness of the tea. For the best tea and Cornish fairings experience, a rich whip of cream is added to the tea.

British biscuit

Most Popular Producers of Cornish Fairings

Cornish fairings were popularized by Furniss of Cornwall. This biscuit manufacturer also produced other sweet treats like short bread biscuits. John Cooper Furniss started to bake gingerbread biscuits in his bakery, in Truro, Cornwall, and put them up for sale in his tearoom. The popularity of Furniss Cornish fairings started to rise when Furniss made them available through mail order in 1886.

According to the Furniss history, the original Cornish fairings were created using the recipe inspired by the fairings displayed at fairs held in Corpus Christi and Whitsuntide. The company expanded and was later on named as Furniss Foods. It became a popular Cornish biscuit manufacturing brand, which produced many varieties of fairings including the Apple & Cinnamon type and the Orange & Lemon.

Cornish Fairings

The company was eventually purchased by Proper Cornish, a Cornish pastry manufacturer. This new company mainly focused on the production of the Cornish fairings. Another popular Cornish fairing producer was the St. Kew, which specialized in the traditional biscuit recipes. This brand is not available in supermarkets. The products manufactured by this company are only available for order and delivery. The best way to enjoy this brand of cookies is by ordering them online.

Asian Food & Health Care also offers sweet and spicy Cornish fairings. These biscuits are brittle and roughly circular, and, of course, very similar to the regular gingerbread. They are made by mixing together the dry ingredients and butter. The syrup and sugar are then added until the dough is biscuit-like.

Ingredients/Preparation

Cornish fairings are spicy, sweet ginger biscuits that are made with regular biscuit ingredients like; flour, butter and caster sugar. Additional ingredients may include; mixed spice, cinnamon, golden syrup and ginger. The appearance of a Cornish fairing is brittle and circular, which looks a lot like a regular gingerbread. The batter is created by mixing all of the dry ingredients with the butter. When the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, sugar and syrup are added, and then mixed together before baking at a high temperature. Once done, the biscuits stay a bit longer at the bottom or the cooler part of the oven.

Cornish fairings should be fairly hard and quite brittle, with a perfect reddish-golden appearance. This appearance is caused by the caramelized syrup and sugar during the baking process. The centre should remain paler in comparison to the outer parts, which should have the pleasing rustic fissures, created by their quick rise inside the oven. If you are interested in making your own Cornish fairings, all you have to do is to search for some recipes online. Sixteen pieces will take about ten minutes of preparation and another ten minutes for baking.

Interesting Facts about Cornish Fairings

Cornish fairings go well with a cup of hot tea. Dunking is lowering the biscuit into the tea and letting it soak in thereDunking Biscuits: Practice Makes Perfect. During hot summer months, some people love to eat these biscuits sprinkled over ice cream (Cornish Clotted Cream). Cornish fairings are better when there is more ginger added, just like the old recipes require. Some bakers and housewives use chopped crystallized ginger for a gingerier taste.

Cornish fairings are also dipped in melted dark chocolate (Madagascar chocolate is preferred), and then set to cool in the refrigerator for ten minutes before serving. Cornish fairings are quite similar to Gingernut, but some bakers replace the ginger with mixed spices and cinnamon. This practice usually produces biscuits that are like the Speckaloo or other continental cinnamon biscuits.

If you are ever in the Cornwall area, tasting Cornish fairings should be on your list. Leaving the area without having a bite of this delicious and spicy biscuit is like not setting foot in the place at all.

Dunking biscuits

Photo By AndreyCherkasov/shutterstock.com

Cornish Fairings: A Must-taste Biscuit from Cornwall!

We hope you found our article on the Cornish fairings interesting. We can see from all of the info here that both the biscuits and their place of origin have an interesting history and story, and that much dedication and love was put into their production. If you’re visiting the UK, and Cornwall by chance, it would be a shame to miss out on these delights. If you’re inclined to try some out right now, as we’ve mentioned earlier, there are recipes available online that you can check out. If not, you can always order some from the Furniss’ online store. We hope you enjoy the biscuits, and until next time, cheers!

Discover more about Biscuits from Around the World


Leading image: melissahartfiel.com

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