THE consumers had the final word at a ceremony celebrating the best of Hampshire food and drink.

The winners of Hampshire Farmers Markets (HFM) Awards were voted for by the public who shop at the regular markets at Alton, Emsworth, Ringwood, Petersfield, Romsey, Southsea and Southampton, as well as food festivals at Hamble and the Alresford Watercress Festival

Ambrose Sausages were the only double winners taking the award for Best Food Product and Best Food Initiative, which was a new category for this year and the only one to be decided by HFM directors, for their charcuterie range of cured air dried meats.

The business was established in 2011 by Phil and Sue Ambrose at their home in Bishopstoke, to recreate a 100-year-old secret family sausage recipe, and has since expanded to offer a range of free range pork from their farm at Lower Upham.

Phil’s grandfather Gilbert came up the secret family recipe in the 1920s and his sought-after sausages made in his shop in Westtbourne, West Sussex were even supplied to the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Prior to this week’s success Gilbert’s recipe also helped the Ambroses to the South east regional title in 2014 Sausage Week.

The Amrbose’s latest venture, which earned the innovation award, is a far cry from Gilbert’s bangers – it’s Hampshire salami made with red wine from the Wickham Vineyard and garlic from the isle of Wight.

“I’ve tweaked an Italian recipe and now it’s a real taste of Hampshire,” said Phil.

Phil and Sue raise traditional pig breeds including Gloucester Old Spot, Saddleback, Midldle Whites and Oxford Sandy and Blacks. The live outdoors all year and their diet is supplemented by acorns from the oak trees which surround their field, giving the pork a distinctive flavour.

The winners received their awards at a special dinner held at the Brookfield Hotel, Emsworth from food writer Penny Ericsson, whose recent books Meats, Drinks and Leaves celebrated the diversity of Hampshire produce.

The other award winners were:

Best Food to Take Away - Bowtell’s Farm Shop

Best Personality - Mike Smales of Lyburn Cheese

Best Drinks Producer - Hill Farm Apple Juice

Alex Handford said: “Our awards dinner is a great way for all of our producers to celebrate their achievements throughout the year and the appreciation they receive from our market visitors. The Hampshire Farmers’ Markets is proud to be enabling local producers to nurture their businesses from fledgling start-ups that develop into larger viable businesses.”

“Buying local not only helps the local economy, but local jobs as well, keeps food miles down and protects the environment. Our stallholders also really enjoy the direct contact with our market customers, who also have the chance to talk to the producers and to sample the wide range of foods on offer,” concluded Alex Handford.