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Monday, November 30, 2015
Taste of the Week
Con’s Irish Cider
If you haven’t tasted real Irish cider before, you're in for a treat. This is packed with flavour and it just waiting to get out of the bottle and impress. Your palate will initially be overwhelmed - after all, 85% (maybe more) of the content is apple. You soon get used to it and begin to enjoy the genuine taste of an Irish orchard.
Made in Cahir (County Tipperary) by Con Traas, from his own apples, this cloudy small batch cider is a great example of the craft. Taste of the Week, any week.
That initial burst in the mouth reminded me instantly of something Brooklyn brewer Garrett Oliver said at Ballymaloe LitFest earlier in the year: “You hear people say, when they taste a craft beer: This is nice, doesn't taste like beer." He had an explanation: ‘The beer they grew up with didn't taste like real beer!’”
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Blossom Walks - Open Day at Irish Apple Farms Nationwide
~ Bord Bia and Irish Apple Grower Association to host series of Blossom Walks ~
Bord Bia, in conjunction with the Irish Apple Growers Association, is delighted to announce details of the inaugural ‘Blossom Walk’ which will take place on Saturday, 3rd May. As part of the event, seven apple farms and orchards nationwide will open their doors and gates to the public. From Cahir to Cappoquin, members of the public will be invited to enjoy guided walks, engage with the growers, learn about the history of the individual farms and discover apple growing techniques. There will also be an opportunity to purchase some of the grower’s produce.
The value of Irish apple production is almost €4 million according to Bord Bia and trade estimates. Culinary and dessert apple production accounts for 80% of the production value (€3.15 million), while cider apple production accounts for 20% (€0.78 million). Approximately 15,000 tonnes of Irish apples are sold each year with culinary apples representing 47% of total sales. There are currently 83 commercial apple growers in Ireland.
Speaking ahead of ‘Blossom Walk’, Olan McNeece from the Irish Apple Growers Association said “We look forward to offering visitors a unique opportunity to see how the Irish apple growing industry works first-hand. While no entrance fee will be charged, any donations made on the day will be given to “Blossom Ireland”, a very worthwhile charity who provide dedicated, therapy-led camps and after school activities for children with intellectual disabilities.”
For more information, event listings and recipes visit www.bordbia.ie
Participating Apple Farms:
The Apple Farm
Moorstown, Cahir, Co. Tipperary
Lnockane, Ovens, Co. Cork
Gilbert’s Orchard & Farm Shop
Ferns, Enniscorthy, Co.Wexford
Cappoquin Estate, Cappoquin,Co.Waterford
Boyne Grove Fruit Farm
Stameen, Drogheda, Co.Meath
Blossom Ireland was founded by two mothers passionate in the belief that their boys with special needs deserve the same opportunities as all children. Their goal is to go some way towards filling the gap between the available public services and the actual needs of the child and their family, particularly during out of school hours. Currently we provide dedicated, therapy led camps and after school activities for children with intellectual disabilities aged between 8 and 15 years.
Blossom Ireland is a very young charity financed 100% by donations and fundraising.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Good Food Ireland Conference
Didn't expect a clinical psychologist to be the star speaker at the annual Good Food Ireland conference in the Shelbourne Hotel (Dublin) yesterday. But that psychologist was Dr Maureen Gaffney and she took the room by storm as she looked at the Feel Good Factor.
Must admit I’m one of those people who just love to see a smile. Maureen says smiles “are all important”. “People are ready to co-operate with you..work on it.. smiles help to form that very important first impression. We all have bad days .. act positively especially when things are bad.” She said there is evidence that shows that smiling even helps the smiler. “It triggers (even fools) your brain”.
And she also pointed out that a negative mood in the team leader can have a negative influence on the staff, your staff. This is a “high risk” to business. So learn to smile. Cheese!
“Get your self right..then you'll get a whole lot more right. Learn, achieve, grow. Vision is vitally important, start with your vision. Values are really important, not just accessories...There is evidence that people driven by a higher set of values do better.”
|Maureen Gaffney (left) and Xanthe Clay|
Set challenges, she urged. “Keep learning, growing, have projects, invest time and effort in them. And connect! Not just on digital platforms but also in the real world, family, friends, clubmates. These real connections will provide “personal experience and insight, contextual information, personal recommendations”.
So get social,and get connected, she urged. And she ended with a reminder about that smile. “Nurture your optimism!”
Xanthe Clay, author and journalist, spoke on the fickle British market, especially the fickle press. One day they headline that coffee is good for you, a week later they say it is bad for you. She urged irish producers to give value for money and highlighted the importance of trust (especially after the rocky year that saw the horse meat scandal gallop across the headlines). “Be open, she said. “Show people what you do. If you do add an additive to your food, list it, explain it.” Much better than your customers ambushed by the news in the press later on.
Asked what were the outstanding Irish qualities, she didn't hesitate: “Tradition, warmth, quality. These never go out of fashion.”
Coming into fashion is Origin Green, Bord Bia’s new programme to enhance and promote sustainability and explained on stage by Una Fitzgibbon. This was quite a sombre presentation, no jokes here. Great to see producers such as the Apple Farm’s Con Traas and Stonewell Cider’s Daniel Emerson being very enthusiastic about it on a short film. “This is a big deal,”said conference chair Darragh McCullough. “Only going to get bigger.”
Margot Slattery of Sodexo started with some very impressive numbers: purchases of some 18 million euro in Ireland every year. 420,000 employees worldwide and growing. “We stand for sustainability and fresh food” as client companies are looking for healthy weight and healthy life for their employees. Sodexo run gyms, even detox programmes.
|Siobhain from Kalbo's and Yours Truly|
Margot said they feed 50,000 a day in ireland. “Not frozen food, these are cooked, from scratch, on a daily basis.”
Just before a break for lunch, there was a panel discussion on Digital Marketing and two bits of advice emerged, at least two that I noted. Check out the recent changes in YouTube as they make it more interesting to business. And also have a look at Vine for short video promotions.
If Maureen Gaffney was the morning star then Pádraig Ó’Céidigh caught the attention in the afternoon. The founder of Aer Arann took us on a flight. He started in the Comfort Zone, then challenged us to enter the Stretch Zone before warning us about the perils of the Danger Zone (here, you can damage yourself, he reported, from experience).
|Kevin and Réidín from Sage|
Citing the small beginnings of what is now the Kerry group in 1972 and the choice made by Clonakilty Black Pudding’s Colette Twomey to run the company after the death of her husband as examples of leaving the comfort zone.
And Padraig is optimistic right now. “This is a great time to be an entrepreneur. There is great optimism out there, great opportunities. Time to leave the comfort zone.”
“There have never been such a demand for good quality food. Be solid on your own two feet, use what’s between your ears. No reason why we can't have another Kerry.”
The world will go on with you or without you. Make sure it’s with you. Believe it and go for it. Never forget your roots and use that little bit of Gaeilge!”
An afternoon panel discussion on our food future produced some interesting points. Martin Shanahan thought too much of our fish is being exported. Country Choice’s Peter Ward urged the industry to be creative, to re-invent our own Irish produce. Chapter One’s Ross Lewis says he sees confidence building in young Irish chefs, “not necessarily mimicking foreign chefs.The industry has changed more in the last three years than in the previous thirty.”
Minister for Tourism Alan Varadkar launched the Good Food Ireland prepaid MasterCard, a food travel passport for visitors to the county’s producers, shops and restaurants and said he was encouraged by progress in tourism numbers this year and employment growth in the industry. He lauded the “great decision” by government colleagues to retain the 9% VAT and acknowledged that lobbying had had its effect and confirmed that there were no plans to increase the rate in the future. We are very much in recovery mode.”
The delegates assembled in the same room for a cracking dinner in the evening. Skeaghanore Duck and Clare Island salmon were the centrepieces, all washed down by superb wines from Classic Drinks.
The awards were announced as the desserts were being served and the large Cork contingent had plenty to cheer about with Midleton's Sage Restaurant, URRU Culinary Store in Bandon, MIlleens Cheese, Kalbo’s Cafe in Skibbereen and Kinsale’s Fishy Fishy all winning their categories.
One of the loudest cheers of the night went to Ballymaloe’s Rory O'Connell who was declared Ambassador of the Year, mainly for his part in feeding, at short notice, 10,000 delegates at the recent Web Summit. Mount Juliet won three awards including the Supreme Award and Restaurant of the Year Award.
All the awards were presented by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny who smilingly indicated there were three women he must listen to: Mrs Kenny, Angela Merkel and Margaret Jeffares (the dynamo behind Good Food Ireland).
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
A Look Back at Cahir Cider Celebration
I have to say that I was surprised and delighted with my trip to the Apple Farm in Cahir last weekend to visit the Slow Food Cider Festival. The big surprise was the sheer variety of styles and flavours of the ciders in the tasting tent. Just incredible, everything from dry to sweet and beyond (including that organic Traditional Medieval Honeyed Cider by Highbank Orchards).
I reckon they were all winners but on the day the judges decided on one and they awarded Best in Show to the, by now, well known and very well made Longueville House Cider, a 100% natural medium dry from their own orchards in Cork’s Blackwater Valley. Lots of people think you have to have ice in your cider but producer William O'Callaghan disagrees: “It is best drunk well chilled with no ice and is an ideal accompaniment to fish and meat”.
William, like many of the producers in Cahir, hasn't stopped with just one product. He was also showing his Apple Brandy (Calvados styled). And a very nice one too. This is really rich and mature and, in my opinion, not as fiery as some of its more famous counterparts from Normandy. He also makes liqueurs, must get my hands on some of those!
Longueville House is a busy spot and they have a few interesting events coming up:
- 12th Annual Mushroom Hunt, Sunday 06th & 20th October 2013
- Harvest Lunch & Cider Making Tour, Sunday 27th October 2013;
- Girls Night Out in Style, Pre Christmas Shopping , 21st November 2013;
- and don’t forget the New Year’s Eve Party!
Lisburn’s Tempted? were displaying their new snake logo and “4 tempting flavours”, including the lovely Strawberry that won Gold at the 2012 Irish Food Awards. But, this time, it was their dry cider that was voted Best in Show in that category. Reckon they'll be keeping the Snake. And maybe that Question Mark. Must admit I concentrated on the dry when I visited the MacIvor’s stand but it was their sweet that won the Best in Show in that category.
Great to meet up with Angus Craigie and Simon Tyrrell and taste their excellent cider, the Ballyhook Flier. Orpens and Keeved Cider’s Cockagee (not on general release yet) were other very enjoyable drops.
And then there was one with a difference from Kilmegan, their Wild Elderflower Infused Cider. Really gorgeous and worth a try if you come across it.
Had a terrific chat at the Highbank Orchard stand. Knew some of the products, including their limited edition Proper Cider and the multi-purpose Highbank Syrup. But the Medieval Cider was new to me as was their sweet cider. They are busy busy at Highbank Farm this month and have a day of family fun scheduled for the 29th. Click here for details.
The main focus was rightly on the cider producers but there were a few other stalls as well and, of course, the famed Apple Farm Shop was open. Great to meet up again with Sarah Grubb, husband and children at the Cashel Blue stand.
Amazing professionalism and a genuine courtesy to all as the couple managed to keep three young kids and a stream of interested callers happy. And we left here happy too with a small wedge of their Shepherd’s Store, a hard sheep cheese (you can't store the milk!) made during a good summer. It is a gorgeous cheese, with the trademark creaminess, and I'd advise you to get a wedge for yourself if you get the chance.
Did hear one or two complaints about the five euro (per car) parking charge, mainly because it wasn’t flagged in advance. Then again, there was a nice bonus (which I also hadn't known about). As you paid your seven euro entry fee to the Cider Tasting tent, a large bottle of a Con Traas cider special, called the Crow Black Chicken, a really nice dry cider, was presented to each punter.l
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Not a long long way to Tipp
No. It's not a long long way to Tipperary, at least not to Con Traas's Apple Farm on the Cahir-Clonmel Road. Indeed, it is just an hour from the east of Cork City.
The usual apple juices, including the top notch sparkling one, are on sale in the Farm Shop. Lots of jams also including my favourite plum.
They were quite busy this Tuesday morning, mainly because of all the freshly picked fruit available, including classy raspberries and strawberries. But I went in a big way for the cherries, grown under tunnels. They are big and have a healthy shine about them and are deliciously juicy.
Two hours well spent, I reckon.
|Click on image to enlarge!|
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Down on the farm
With so many farmers coming to town to man their market stalls, I did the trip in reverse last week and visited a farm shop, the one at Waterfall Farms which is situated in Ballyshoneen, Waterfall.
Sounds deep in the country, yet it’s just 15 minutes or so from the city centre, very convenient to Bishopstown and Ballincollig. And you won’t get lost if you follow this map and directions!
It is a pleasant trip through the country roads and there is a warm welcome, especially from the woman of the house who, by the way, bakes a smashing health loaf. That welcome continues, even though nowadays much of the business is done direct with shops and restaurants such as Nash 19.
But not just vegetables. Hen and duck eggs and great to see the top notch juices from Cahir’s Apple Farm on sale here.
And before you go, don't forget to take a look at the selection of second-hand books there. All the proceeds go to charity.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
THE APPLE FARMER
Driving along the tree lined avenue to the Apple Farm in Moorstown (near Cahir) on the last day of November, I was expecting everything to be very quiet. Instead, it was quietly busy.
|Con, with a fairly mature plum tree|
Technique and timing are each important in the out of season work, especially in the pruning of the trees, and owner Con Traas is confident in the skills of his crew.
Con, whose family came here from Holland in the late 60s, was at his desk, working on the winter edition of The Apple Club Newsletter. Typical of the man, the 1500 copies are printed on recycled paper.
He plays a leading role in the food community in Tipperary, always keen to promote a good product (not just from Tipp) and always keeping an eye on the big supermarkets, especially on their “special” offers.
Con may be vastly experienced in fruit farming but is always willing to learn. He had a PhD student in during the summer studying the bumble bees on the farm and Con learned that he had five species. The student learned a lot and so did Con: “I now know for sure that, if I want plenty of bees to be there to pollinate my apple trees, that I must do my utmost to ensure…plenty of flowering plants to feed my bees when the apples themselves are not in flower.”
Con took time off from the computer to take us on a tour, starting in the shop which is so well stocked with fruit, jams and juices. Then we saw his new processing shed, white and bright and nearing completion. While much of the work in the fields is manual, processing is largely mechanical as we saw when we visited the sorting and juicing areas.
Apple Storage too is pretty high-tech as they are kept in a Controlled Atmosphere within the containers. The amount of oxygen, controlled within the container, plays a big role here in keeping the apples nice and fresh and crispy for you when you need them, even a few months from now.
Then, back to the shop to fill the bags with loads of juice, including my favourite, The Sparkling Irish Apple Juice, fruit (eating and cooking apples) and also lots of jam (mainly the plum, another favourite).
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
THE APPLE FARM
Enjoyed some exceptional plum jam at lunchtime. Spread it out on some pieces of a sliced bloomer from ABC in the English Market and..Wow!!.
Bought the jam last week from the Apple Farm in Tipperary. Just brilliant. If you can’t find it in stock in Cork, drive up to Cahir. It is only up the road. Worth it! It is very easy to get to and something to do on a bad day.
The shop is on the edge of Con Trass’ fruit farm and is a few miles outside of Cahir on the main road to Clonmel. Of course, you may also buy online.
Con makes one of my all time favourite Irish drinks: Sparkling Apple Juice. They were actually bottling some of it as I visited.
Stocked up on that (plus one of Sparkling Apple and Blackcurrant Juice) and also loads of the well known Karmine Apple Juice. Jars and jars of jam: apple, strawberry and that fabulous plum!
The apple harvest doesn’t begin until later this month and we were between strawberry pickings and there were none ready but should be there in abundance this week. But there were lots of those plums and we got a pack or two.
Soon we were on the road with two big boxes full of fruit drinks, jam and fruit. Apples have been grown in this area for hundreds of years, and since 1968, Con Trass has been planting more orchards to increase supply. Read all about this fascinating venture here. Every county should have at least one fruit farm like this. Maybe Con might start a chain!