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So said Avril Allshire during our recent visit to the Rosscarbery farm that she runs with husband Willie and their two sons William and Maurice. The small farm is home to two related enterprises: Caherbeg Free Range Pork and Rosscarbery Recipes. It is also the place where the young sons practice on their racing quads!
“Every little mouthful should be savoured,” she continued. “None of us can afford to gorge ourselves, we can't afford to waste meat.”
Pork Fruit Cake. Secret Recipe!
Avril was talking to me in her own home, surrounded by shelves and shelves of books, many of them food related. No surprise either to see that she is a big fan of Joanna Blythman, the English writer who constantly exposes the con-men of the big-food world and who will again appear at the 2015 Ballymaloe Lit-Fest next month.
Avril could well write a recipe book herself. She agreed with me that food producers should provide recipes to customers but only if they have something new to add.
She certainly has and you’ll see quite a few of them on her Rosscarbery Recipes blog. But there is one that she won't be publishing, won't be sharing! As we spoke we were treated to a slice of what looked like a normal fruit cake.
Spots (left) and Timmy
As we began to enjoy it, she revealed that it had “no eggs, no dairy”. She named this delicious creation, an exclusive one, Pork Fruit Cake, as one of the important ingredients is, believe it or not, sausage meat! “It is an alternative to Christmas Cake, may well have been a forerunner of Christmas cake.”
Later, at lunch, she served us her Black Pudding lasagna, another of her originals, a flavoursome echo perhaps of the time when there were no convenience shops, maybe also a shortage of cash, and people had to use what was close at hand, what was in the cupboard. And indeed there was another echo of those days in her answer to the question What is your own favourite? “Depends on the humour,” she laughed. “But I’ll use whatever is in the house.”
“Has the success of any particular product surprised you?”, I asked.
“Yes, I have been surprised by the success of the black pudding, by the variety of people that like it, the young and the old alike. Eastern European peoples quite like it too. It is quite low in fat and useful for a variety of dishes.”
Husband Willie drove the rest of the family to the brink of frustration during the long 15 months he (and they) spent developing their black pudding, developing it to his and their satisfaction. But the passion paid off in a big way and the pudding has won a string of awards, mostly gold, in Ireland, the UK, Belgium and notably in France. “How do you know you have a good one?”, I queried. “The acid test,” she replied, “is to cut a sliver and eat it at room temperature.”
We discussed trends in the business.”Six or seven years ago, you could not give away belly of pork. Then the recession hit and everybody wanted it. The Caherbeg herd is quite small. We have limited numbers and not that much belly and so the Celtic Ross have exclusivity on our belly.” We had enjoyed that special dish in the local hotel the previous evening and it is worth travelling for!
Then it was time to take a tour of the free range pigs (a mixture of breeds including Gloucester Old Spot, Tamworth and Kune-Kune) and we met some of the main characters including Spots, the mammy of many of them, and Timmy, the daddy. Pigs are not the only animals here. We met the dog and some of the five cats. And also Maa-aa, the growing lamb that they adopted from a neighbouring farm after its mother had rejected it. Maa-aa has been given a job! She'll be keeping the grass and weeds in control in their orchard! Two legs or four, you have to pull your weight in Caherbeg!
Read more about Caherbeg Free-Range Pork and Rosscarbery Recipes here