Showing posts with label charcuterie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label charcuterie. Show all posts

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Fergusons. And the Gubbeen Bug. The Family That Farms Together

The Fergusons. And the Gubbeen Bug. 

The Family That Farms Together

Cheese in brine
Farming at Gubbeen is a family affair with father and mother Tom and Gianna Ferguson and their son Fingal and daughter Clovisse the key figures. 



But, for a long time now, they've had the help of an unseen bug, officially known as Microbacterium gubbeenense, a unique strain (hence its own name) of lactic acid producing bacteria. Gianna, the cheesemaker, was thrilled when informed about the bug back around 2001. She told us during last Friday's Munster Wine and Dine Tour: “Gubbeen’s own bug. I was totally delighted with that. I have three children, and a bug!”
Munster Wine & Dine at Gubbeen

Tom
“Our cheese story begins out on the land.” She praised Tom’s herd, mostly Friesian, a few other breeds too including a few Jerseys "for their cream!" The cheese took off well and since then “everything seems to have dovetailed together”. Here, she was talking about the smokehouse charcuterie (and smoked cheese of course) by Fingal along with the gardening skills of Clovisse, not that either are confined to just one skill, far from it.

She said Irish cheese regulation is geared towards cheddar cheese production. “But my tradition is based on the practices of small farms in France and Spain. We in Gubbeen use the traditional rennet, made from an enzyme that grows in a calf’s stomach. We tried it vegetarian rennet but it didn't work for us.”
Once the cheese is made into wheels, not very big ones in Gubbeen’s case, the bacteria is inoculated by hand into each and every one four times. The rind is known as washed rind because, it it comes from regular washing (water yes but also white wine!) of the individual wheels. “It is edible,” she said. “But it is a different texture and I respect why people may not eat it.”

Gubbeen basically make one cheese type but you may buy it young or more mature or smoked and in different sizes. Read all about the variations here on the Gubbeen cheese page  .

Fingal shows his knives

The Gubbeen smokehouse story begins with a neighbour. “In my early teens I would drive over to the village of Goleen to bring our cheeses to Chris Jepson to be smoked in his Smokehouse,” Fingal told us as he took us around the new (the 2nd) smoke house. After the cheese, they did meat. “Then the salamis really took off, helped by the fact that our name was appearing in top restaurants such as Chapter One.”

Like his mother, Fingal too pointed “to the care of the land” as key. “Milk is vital to cheese. The quality of pig is vital to us. We have embraced with locals via the Piggy Coop. We stress the husbandry and the breed, mostly outdoor reared. You pay more but it is worth it.” By the way, there are 25 employed (including family members) in Gubbeen.
Welcome to the smokehouse

He showed us how he heats his kilns, “important to get the correct balance of air and smoke. Different temperatures create different flavours”. And, wouldn't you know it, they use local timbers, local windfall timber. A fair bit of work in chopping up a big tree but father Tom takes no excuses: “The man who cuts his own timber warms himself twice!”

Fingal spoke of salting and brining. “The brine is traditional Irish, herbs jazz it up.” He uses natural casings, “more expensive but a better result”. “These smoked products are not overly sterilised but good for your gut and more interesting in terms of flavour.” Read all about the smoke house, including the fabulous salamis and chorizos here

Just a hint of the Superb Lunch from Clovisse

And when Fingal has time, he crafts the most amazing knifes for cooks and butchers but don’t rush down to buy one; there is a waiting list of close to 800 for these beauties. Heat treating and quality of steel are key in making a good knife. “The tempering cycle, well done, can change the properties of the steel to enhance its eventual role, including durability.” His attractive handles are made “of everything from old bog oak to weird and wonderful materials.”

Then he took us on a walk around the yard and here we met some baby animals, including calves and bonhams, also a big turkey and a mighty cockerel that almost matched him.

Then it was the turn of Clovisse to feed us. And, using the cheese, the smokehouse meats, and herbs, vegetables and leaves from her own garden just outside the dining room window, she put together a feast of Gubbeen. Nothing much to be added, though the organic wines from Le Caveau, the Gran Cedro Tempranillo and the Meyer-Fonné Pinot Blanc, were entirely appropriate and excellent matches.

Her garden is completely chemical free with a strong emphasis on keeping the soil clean and healthy.  Many of the herbs are used in the sausage recipes and meat cures. Gianna used the word dovetail earlier to describe how the different elements of Gubbeen have come together and the Gubbeen greens are becoming an increasing element of the great family story. Read all about them here
Back to the garden
See also:

Tapas at Schull’s Casa Diego. And Farewell to lovely Stanley House




Monday, April 14, 2014

Talk of the Tongue. International Wine and Food Society Event

Talk of the Tongue

International Wine and Food Society Event

The Tongue (left) and more from last Thursday's Celebrating Local Tastes.

“Celebrating Local Tastes” was the title of the first outing for 2014 of the Munster Branch of the International Wine and Food Society.  Held at L'Atitude 51 (1 Union Quay), it turned into an absorbing evening with suppliers Frank Hederman, Jack McCarthy, On the Pig’s Back and Eve’s Chocolates taking the opportunity to showcase their impressive wares while the whole event was enhanced by some well chosen words, not to mention well chosen wines*, by our hostess Beverly Mathews.


First up was smoker Frank Hederman: “Our smokehouse food is made very simply using salt and smoke as natural preservatives to enhance very beautiful Irish raw materials. We are in the condiment business, simply adding flavour, creating new taste experiences and memories using age-old, natural techniques.”


Most of us are familiar with his famous smoked salmon and mackerel, maybe even with the smoked mussels. Lately he has produced smoked butter and on Thursday last introduced us to the new smoked Creme Fraiche. If you see it, buy it!


Then it was the turn of On the Pig's Back and Maria Perez concentrated on their cheeses and demonstrated a terrific variety of flavours using Ardsallagh, Ardrahan and Crozier Blue, among others, to make the point that local cheeses are absolutely first class, capable of holding their own in any company.


One man who can certainly do that is Kanturk butcher Jack McCarthy. He came laden with generous plates of his fabulous charcuterie, Irish charcuterie he emphasized, maybe even Duhallow charcuterie!


On Thursday last, he had quite a selection, including his Italian style copa. Then he introduced his Sliabh Luachra, an air dried beef for which they have been named Nationality Speciality Champions. We thought that was good but what really set us talking was his Tongue. It brought memories back for many (of a certain age!) but everyone was talking about it in a most complimentary way!


Had to finish off this excellent evening with something sweet and that was supplied by Jill from Eve’s Chocolates. “Eve’s”, she said, “is one of Cork's best kept secrets”. But that is not how they want it. So do go and visit them at Eve's Chocolate Shop, 8 College Commercial Park, Magazine Road, Cork. If you go this week, watch out as you could be falling over eggs and bunnies or they may be falling over you. Death by chocolate!


The Wine and Food Society are planning their next outing and if you would like to become a member then contact Aoife (treasurer) mccanaoife@gmail.com. Other officers are  Richie Scott (assistant treasurer), Beverley Matthews (secretary) and Greg Canty (chairman)



*The wines were:
Valdespino, Manzanilla Deliciosa  "En Rama" (unfiltered)
Pipoli Greco Fiano from Basilicata (Southern Italy) 2011
Chateau Ste. Eulalie "La Cantilene" from Minervois La Laviniere 2009  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Jack McCarthy Butchers. An Afternoon in Kanturk.

Jack McCarthy Butchers. An Afternoon in Kanturk.


Jack. A true Normand (poor pun).
Afternoon in Kanturk


From Button Accordion to Boudin Noir;
Olympic Medals to Normandy Ór;
From Duhallow field to Fade Street Social;
All kinds of balls, not least the oval.
The RIC and the royal Queen’s Pudding;
Animals reared on pastures green and lush.
Wheeling and dealing, fair to fair,
Paring prices, bobs here, pence there.
In the North Cork town, two rivers meet,
Allow and Dallow. The butcher tweets.
From the shop on Main Street's door
Tim broadcasts on Radio Four;
Loma, Coppa and Pastrami,
Outdoing the Italians at Salami.
Five generations in the ancient store.
Heritage, music, meats galore.
Kanturk, past, present and future,
with Jack McCarthy,master butcher.
The magic cooking bag!
Since 1892, McCarthy Butchers have been trading in Kanturk. And they won't be stopping anytime soon. The enthusiasm is as strong as ever and so too is the spirit of innovation.

When I called there last Friday afternoon, Jack told me enthusiastically about a new cooking bag they had introduced while, in the back, son Timmy was hard at work making a Biroldo.

Different strokes for different folks!
More like a terrine.

The bag, made of high density plastic, is proving very popular. “It keeps the flavours and you can boil or roast or…. People who have used it keep returning,” said Jack. Well, we tried it out that very night. We bought one from Jack filled with strips of steak and vegetables and a red wine sauce. Cooked at a very low temperature it was perfect and gorgeous. No wonder the customers keep coming back for more.
Smoked pudding. Loved it!
Soon we got a taste of their Sliabh Luachra, an air dried beef for which they were named Nationality Speciality Champions. You may remember that Kate O’Toole featured it as a starter (served with fresh figs and Desmond cheese) in The Restaurant on RTE.


We moved slowly, lingering on the sample bites,  through their other cured meats: the coppa (traditional Italian cold cured, and smoked here), loma (dry cured, made from pork tenderloin), North Cork lard (great for cooking shrimps!), and then we came to a real treasure: the non smoked Pastrami. Special peppers have been used here but the whole thing is something special. This Pastrami is at a different level for sure.


Biroldo base


Irish charcuterie has arrived! Obviously, there are quite a few other people working in this area and many are coming up with some terrific results, partly because they are working on great produce. But do give yourself a treat soon and try this magnificent Pastrami!

Jack’s son Timmy has been learning the tricks of the trade in courses in Italy and that is where he got the idea for the Biroldo he was working on. The main ingredients are the meat from the cooked pig's head, shredded of course, blood, spices and herbs. The mix is then poured into an appendix (not kidding!) and slowly cooked again. Looking forward to a sample soon. Should be very very tasty!
Timmy filling an appendix.

Jack McCarthy have won quite a few honours in recent years and really grabbed the attention back in 2010 when he was awarded a gold medal by the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Goute Boudin and indeed the Black pudding overseers from Normandy made Jack a Chevalier. McCarthy’s most recent success on that front came earlier this year when their Pig’s Head Black Pudding with Rum and Raisin won gold, for International Creativity, in Normandy.


That contest was featured by BBC 4 Food and you may listen to a podcast here.

Now that is where I came in. Innovation, Creativity. This a proud Duhallow family. They use the local Castle and Ceann Turc (the Irish version of Kanturk, meaning head of the boar; how appropriate!) on their packaging.

Always looking ahead. But never forgetting the past either. Jack showed me some of their precious ledgers from the early days. Some entries going right back to 1891. The one photographed is from 1900 and you can see they had a thriving trade going on then in skins, hides and pelts. Every bit of the animal was used and it is much the same now.

Next time I visit we might concentrate more on the main meats but then again you never know what this pair have in the pipeline and they could well have some tasty new variation to show us in the near future. Watch this space.
The brilliant Pastrami
Oh, and don't forget to check out their website. Here you’ll find a great selection of beef, free range pork, lamb and chicken and more. If you have a special occasion coming up, then why not check out their Spit Roast Service. And, if you are a young butcher anxious to learn, well they even have a course for you called Practical Pig in a Day Course.
Jack (left) and note the McCarthy
castle in the background.









Monday, July 9, 2012

Gubbeen. “A gentle and fertile corner."

At Ballymaloe, l to r: Fingal and Giana Ferguson, yours truly and Rory O'Connell 
Gubbeen. “A gentle and fertile corner.”


“We are dairy farmers and farm over 200 acres in West Cork, with Mount Gabriel behind us and the Fastnet out in front of us. We have a mixed herd...but are very proud of our Kerry cows,” said Gubbeen’s Giana Ferguson as she addressed those of us privileged to be in the attendance at the Trimbach Wine and Cheese evening in Ballymaloe last week.

It was a very special evening in the Grain Store, so much more than the sum of its advertised parts: wine from Alsace, charcuterie and cheese from Gubbeen and the blue cheeses of Cashel and Crozier. But put these special families together, the Allens, the Fergusons, the Grubbs and the Trimbachs, as Ballymaloe's Colm McCan did, and you have the perfect mix for a few magical hours.

Instructive too. For these family “businesses”, more a labour of love, have a certain honesty and simplicity, not forgetting an abundance of hard work, not just in the day to day tasks, but also in acquiring and maintaining the necessary skills, that put together enable them to reach the highest of standards. They don’t boast about it either but they are a shining example to us all.

Take the Fergusons at Gubbeen where they have been farming for many generations now. Like many farmers, they have cows, they have pigs, they have poultry and they have a kitchen garden. But here, they have been put together in a rather special way by a family who work hard, respect the land, their animals and their customers.

And just like the engaging Jean Trimbach, they too know their terroir: the acidic soil, the salty winds from the Atlantic, the early grass (thanks to the Gulfstream).

They started making cheese in the 70s and these first generation cheesemakers were taking a step into the unknown.

But there was help and support from two of Cork’s leading food families: the Allens of Ballymaloe and the Ryans (now in Isaac’s), a support warmly acknowledged by Giana: "The Ryans and the Allens stood by us and kept us going."

Gubbeen chorizo

And they have travelled a long way, without ever leaving Gubbeen, without ever getting “big”. The add-ons are organic. Their pigs have the best views of any pig farm and son Fingal has taken a keen interest here. He admitted to being “fascinated by meat curing” and is “always looking to learn more in the future” Already, he has over fifty products, most from the versatile pig.

Daughter Clovisse has also added to the productivity of the farm.  She is a bio-dynamic gardener and, with a terraced acre and four tunnels, she supplies several local chefs and is the source of fresh salads, vegetables and fruit for her customers.  Her herbs are the key flavours in Fingal's cures for his smoked meats, and in the summer - if you get down early enough - you can buy her salads at the Schull or Skibbereen Farmers’ Markets.

Parents Tom and Giana have been the pioneers, Tom as the herdsman and Giana as the cheese maker; she also keeps poultry in the yards.  Special people making special food. A regional and national treasure.

Don’t forget to visit the Gubbeen site here.