Archive for August, 2008

Peadar O Lionaird of Follain Teo mincing oranges for marmalade

Peadar O Lionaird of Follain Teo mincing oranges for marmalade. (Photo by John Minihan)

I’ve been waiting  for blackberry season for a few months now, initially  observing  the profusion of blossom with anticipation but realising as the  wet  weeks passed that the promise shown in May would never be  delivered. With what  we we could gather last weekend it wasn’t  worth contemplating jam, so for the  next 12 months we’ll have  to continue relying on Folláin Teo…how bad! Their  jams are  great, I particularly like the raspberry and blackberry, which are  tart  enough to retain the full fruit flavour and aroma. Anyway  resigned yet consoled,  I recycled my stash of jars (I even had enough lids!) and travelled to  Ballyvourney to talk to Peadar O’ Lionáird about jam making, fruit growing and  the bad weather.
Peadar and his wife Mairín, started their business 26 years ago in their  kitchen in Coolea, subsequently growing through various stages  from their garage  to a portacabin to a small enterprise unit,  until they finally took on a  stand-alone factory in Ballyvourney. The business provides employment for 15  people, including their  daughter Máiréad. With all the bad news about job  losses, Peadar reckons that there is still near full employment in the local  Muskerry  Gaeltacht. “There is a strong tradition of trade and enterprise here and people who start businesses always have the support of  the local community.  During the 1950s when emmigration was huge, local people recognised the need for industry to prevent the loss  of the population and culture. We’re not dependent on any large  multinationals, all the businesses here are indigenous or locally  owned partnerships.”
Struck by the scale of the plant,  I asked Peadar about making the transition  from home production  to what they do now. “We wanted to bring what we had  developed  to the market but retain our core qualities as artisan producers.  It  has been very important that we designed the new plant around  our processes and  products, not the other way around. Almost all  of the equipment you see here has  been custom made for us and  people are still the most important element in the  making our  jams. We continue to cut, de-seed and mince oranges, lemons and  grapefruit by hand. I don’t know of any other jam maker at this  scale that does  that. We’re using the same recipes here as we  used with the six saucepans in the  kitchen. And just like your  mother might test for setness on a plate, we do it  visually too.  But a bit of science helps as well, by testing the ph level and sugar solids we know when to stop boiling and so retain more of  the flavour while still getting it set.” This taste quality was  once again acknowledged at the annual Great Taste Awards in London  this year, where Folláin picked up  awards for 3 of their preserves. “This recognition means a lot to us. It gives  creedence to the  quality we’ve got and shows that one can take artisan quality from the kitchen to a larger factory unit.”
Peadar gave me a  tour of the jam making process, guiding me through the sweet  aromas  and steam to observe the simmering fruit, the shunting jars and  an array  of ingenious machines that serve to get the jam just  right. Stopping over a pot  of blackberries I asked Peadar about  where they get their berries. “We try to get as much from  local pickers as possible. It’s been an appalling blackberry season this year, I’ve been watching the ditches at home and they’re turning back to green. But there are a lot of local factors that affect  the crop, so there are probably good patches elsewhere. We’re  still looking for people to  come in with fruit. We buy in any  quantity from about 4 or 5kgs up to hundreds of kilos. With blackberries, it’s best to pick just short of full ripeness, when the berry is still firm. This makes the best jam. People take great care of  the  fruit, spreading it out at home to remove any barbs or foreign bodies before  they freeze it. The wild blackberries are different varieties to the commercially grown ones and give a better flavour, more complex, less sugary. The greatest amount we ever bought  in from local pickers was in 2003 when 8  tonnes were picked and  delivered locally.” Peadar is also keen to talk to anyone  interested  in growing fruit commercially and in fact Peadar and Mairín are  at an  advanced stage of getting into fruit growing for themselves.  “The demand for  fruit is greater than ever, a lot more is eaten fresh now and smoothies have  really upped our consumption. Even still fruit growing can be risky and we  understand the growers  concern that they might be left with the crop. We are very willing to discuss a partnership arrangement with anyone interested in growing. Around here is not the best spot for soft fruit, when it gets wet, it stays wet, not like near the sea where the wind dries the damp quickly.”
Peadar and Mairín are continually working on new recipes and products. They have a huge range of pickles and savoury sauces that we rarely see in the shops despite the fact that they are equally well adorned with Great Taste Medals. “Because we use small scale stainless steel equipment we can easily switch from sugar based products to vinegar based sauces. Larger plants can’t do that. It’s so hard to get new products listed with the supermarkets. We sell all of these to the catering trade. I’d say there’s not a hotel in the country that doesn’t have at least one of our products.”
As I left with a few new products in hand to take home and taste Peadar reminded me again to put the word out that they are actively looking for blackberries from local pickers. So if the sun has warmed the hedgerows near you and you’re interested in picking a few more kilos, give Peadar a call on 026-45288.


Just found this really good blog post on Totally Cooked about blackberry picking. It has good advice, especially on jam making and avoiding dog pee.


Read Full Post »

This in from Cionnaith O Suilleabhain:
A Cháirde,
FYI below is the text of the motion submitted to Clonakilty Town Council for next Tuesdays Council Meeting agenda. It was agreed at the public meeting last week that this would be circulated as soon as it has been sent in to place on the agenda
The motion was co-signed by Cllrs. Robert Walsh, Paul Hayes, Anthony McDermott and myself, and the remaining five councillors will be contacted today (Tuesday) inviting them to avail of the option (if they wish) to go into the Town Hall to also sign it before 5.00pm which is the deadline for submission of motions.


“That this council amends it’s Casual Trading byelaws to designate the “Credit Union Car Park” for the purposes of Casual Trading under the Casual Trading Act of 1995″


Also, as per the public meeting last week, a deputation of three people who support the market idea, has been arranged. They will be received at the start of the council meeting (7.00pm sharp). As per Standing Orders, two of the three will be given a maximum of 5 minutes each to address the council on why it should allow the market to be held and in the location that’s being suggested. After they have spoken, they will be thanked by the Mayor, and the council may discuss what has been said, but will not be allowed interact with the speakers, or the speakers will not be allowed to make any further comments.

(The Mayor may use his discretion to be a bit more flexible in relation to how rigidly he wishes to implement the Standing Orders – e.g. he may invite the third member of the deputation to also speak, and may not “blow the whistle” when the 5 minutes are up for each speaker)


The motion will then be discussed later as part of the agenda which is where things will be won or lost.


Important that those who are interested make every effort to attend the council meeting. You must be in the chamber and seated by 7.00pm and cannot interrupt the proceedings. Numbers might be curtailed if Health and Safety or Fire regulations are in danger of being breached, so first in first served, so to speak.


Those who favour the market should at this stage be working to influence the other councillors not mentioned above to either vote for the motion, or abstain. To be successful we only need a majority of one vote.

There are nine councillors. Four have signed the motion and therefore will be voting Yes. The remaining five could vote NO to defeat the proposal or if some abstained, to still allow a majority of one carry it.

The Mayor would only use his casting vote if there’s a tie (as happened in March).


Feel free to forward this to interested parties and individuals.


Meanwhile, the issue got an airing on TG4 Nuacht last Friday. Click on this link and go to 18.00 minutes on the programme (just after the ads!!)







Read Full Post »

From: Caroline Robinson <carolinerobinson@eircom.net>
Date: Aug 25, 2008 9:34 AM
Subject: [westcorkgossip] Anti-GM protest Teagasc Tues 26th 3pm
To: westcorkgossip@yahoogroups.com



Hi all, Please try to come for a short peaceful demonstration outside the Teagasc Offices on Model Farm Rd on Tuesday 26th at 3pm.
We want to show our displeasure that Teagasc is one of the main sponsors of the pro-Gm Conference in UCC. Apparently they donated 50,000 euro.
The Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC 2008) at University College Cork this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will promote the release of patented GM algae, crops, trees, fish, and livestock as a solution to rising food and fuel prices and climate change.The conference is being organised by a Canadian foundation with funding from the Canadian Government, industry lobby groups, and corporate agri-biotech giants including Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, and BP Bio Fuels.  About 400 delegates taking part.

We are protesting the fact that the conference is being co-sponsored by seven Irish government or semi-state agencies including Teagasc (the prime sponsor which is also chairing the event), Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, the Marine Institute (Foras na Mara), the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, and Sustainable Energy Ireland.

This abuse of public funding to promote GM food and farming violates the Government’s agreement to negotiate to declare the whole island of Ireland off-limits to GM crops. We hope our protest will result in a renewed Government commitment to do this and take action to enable farmers to source non-GMO animal feed which is available to their competitors in other parts of the EU.

Please pass on to anyone you think may be interested. Hope to see you there! Caroline



Read Full Post »

On Thursday last my colleague Jean and I enjoyed an opportunity to show off a bit of West Cork to two visiting Italian journalists on a familiarisation trip organised by Failte Ireland – Gabriele Zanatta from Milan and Massimiliano Rella from Rome. They were accompanied by Kinsale based Italian speaking guide Marguerite Condon. We kicked off at the Kinsale Wine Museum where we had an excellent guided introduction to Desmond Castle, the Fitzgerald family and the winegeese. From there we stopped in to chat with Paul McBride and Iain Flynn about their growing food business. I was delighted to hear that they are looking at moving to a larger premises to handle the growth in demand and get their excellent meals out to more shops.

Oriental clams at Fishy Fishy Cafe, Kinsale

This was followed by a delicious lunch al fresco at Fishy Fishy Cafe. I had the clams with ginger and sweet chili sauce (see pic). The two guys were very interested in the area and the local food, particularly seafood. Chef and proprietor, Martin Shanahan joined us when we had finished eating and shared his thoughts on fish. Now that he is running two businesses he finds that he cannot spend as much time in the kitchen as previously. “Part of my role now has to be teaching. The most important part of the business is buying the fish and I will never give that up. I go to Skibbereen for the fish auction nearly every morning and also buy directly from about 10 local boats. In the last 10 years fish has become a global commodity, it wasn’t like that before but now generic white fish can be flown in for a fixed price at any time of the year from Chile, Thailand or elsewhere.

Martin Shanahan, chef & proprietor at Fishy Fishy Cafe, Kinsale

Martin Shanahan, chef & proprietor at Fishy Fishy Cafe, Kinsale

 For me fish is a gift, not a product. It’s not guaranteed what you’ll catch on any trip. You must treat it like a gift. It’s very important that we support our local fishermen. If this generation stops fishing, then that’s it, they won’t go back to it and we’ll have no more fresh fish. What we’ll be eating will be like plastic. We won’t know where it comes from.”

We left Martin and took the coast road to Kinsale, pulling up at Garretstown to get a sense of beach life on an overcast summer’s day. This surf lesson created a lovely splash of yellow against the gathering rain clouds.

Surf lesson at Garretstown Beach

Surf lesson at Garretstown Beach


Anthony Creswell met us at Ummera Smoked Products in Timoleague and gave our visitors a run through the process of smoking salmon. Anthony is fairly confident that we don’t need to go to Norway or Scotland to trace the roots of fish smoking in Ireland. “Smoking to preserve fish caught in times of plenty would have been practised all around the coast. All you needed was salt, which we did import in large quantities. Of course the smoked fish they produced then was quite different from this. It would have been extremely salty and much drier to last through the winter months. They’d eat it when there was nothing better to be had.” Happily, the same could not be said of the Ummera smoked salmon and gravad lax that Anthony treated us to!

(You can watch Anthony talking to ifoods.tv here.)

Jean, Masimiliano, Anthony, Gabriele and Marguerite pictured at Ummera Smokehouse

Jean, Masimiliano, Anthony, Gabriele and Marguerite pictured at Ummera Smokehouse

Read Full Post »

I meant to post this right after the event. It’s not really news now, but for anyone who missed the public meeting regarding the Clonakilty market last week (and that won’t be many I know), it was tremendously positive. Over 90 people attended, most had to stand at the back of the room, some were left in the corridor, listening attentively. Mick Hanly, chaired and very well too – if there had been any dissenting voices in the room it was clear that he would have been up to the task of affording them space to be heard. But as he said himself “The first thing you find out if you’re going to a duck shoot in West Cork is ‘who’s the duck?'”. There was no-one present willing to put a case against the market. The absence of the 4 who voted against the proposal was a real source of dissappointment, even anger, for most of those in the room. The feeling was that the people of the town had elected these people to represent the interests of the town not themselves. It’s fair to say that there was a high degree of frustration among many at the meeting at the ability of a few individuals to block what appears to be the will of everyone else. Even the Mayor, Michael O’Regan, who had missed the vote, was prepared to say that no-one in Clonakilty was opposed to the market in principle. One or two of the traders expressed their cynicism about local authorities and argued that the only way forward was to force the issue through continued trading on the basis of ancient market rights. I do not think this is the way to go. For one thing, a victory for this initiative would defeat the Casual Trading Act and result in an unregulated market – anyone could come in and sell anything, without paying any license fee. It would not be the food market that Clonakilty wants. And besides, local democracy can only work if people are willing to make it work rather than try and exploit weaknesses in legislation to subvert it. I’m glad to say that this was the outcome of the meeting. It was agreed to send a delegation to present the market proposal again and that the coucillors present would all support a new motion. The town council meeting to discuss the motion will be held next Tuesday September 2 in the Town Hall at 7pm and as Cllr Anthony McDermot said “There’s nothing like people power”. There is an open invitation for people to attend and observe the meeting (some 30 can be seated, but more could show their support outside the meeting). Attendees cannot speak but the 3 person delegation will have the opportunity to represent the views of the townspeople as expressed at the public meeting. See my post above for details of the motion.

Read Full Post »

An event to highlight the importance of Local Food Production-Sunday 28th September, 11.30am-7pm.


Due to the rising costs of fossil fuels and the effects of climate change, the security of global food production is in jeopardy. As awareness grows, the importance of producing food locally is becoming apparent and tangible solutions need to be developed.


This year An Sanctoir – a 30 acre holistic community owned and run project just outside the village of Ballydehob, West Cork, has begun to look at community food-growing activities and is taking part in this year’s Growing Awareness farm walk programme. The guided walk will take in the Nature Trail which supports a wide variety of wildlife and habitat areas, and will finish in the new Forest Garden Project begun this spring. The full days’ programme will include a selection of speakers, demonstrations and activities on topics such as: Beekeeping; Working Horses: Community and Schools Gardens; Allotments and Vegetable Box Schemes; Fruit and Nut Growing; Basket Making; Seed Saving and much more.

Come along and enter the Heaviest Pumpkin and the Largest Diameter Sunflower Head competitions, and enjoy the on site Cafe from the deck of a 40ft Pirate Ship whilst being serenaded by local musicians! People are also welcome to bring a picnic.

The Café will be raising funds towards the running costs of the event and there will be no admittance charge. We therefore encourage people to donate generously, and all profits will be put forward to help pay for the wheelchair accessible pathways recently put in place in the An Sanctoir Forest Garden.


Event Co-Ordinator: Caz Jeffreys email: cazjeffreys@gmail.com 028 25978

This event is supported by Sustain West Cork and West Cork Community Partnership. Further volunteer support and sponsors welcome.

Check out our website for the full programme at www.ansanctoir.ie

Read Full Post »

Healthy Food for All and Safefood are establishing a Demonstration Programme on Community Food Initiatives and are looking for funding applications from eligible groups and organisations. The purpose of this funding is to establish a Demonstration Programme of Community Food Initiatives (CFIs) on the island of Ireland. Between five and seven CFIs will be funded over a three year period. Each CFI will receive annual funding over a period of three years to set up, manage and sustain a project. Funding will be up to a maximum of €75,000 (£60,000) provided on an incremental basis over the three year period.
CFIs are projects that improve the availability and accessibility of healthy food for low-income groups at a local level, using a community development approach.
This funding is open to community groups or groups which have an anti-poverty focus in their work. We would especially welcome applications from partnerships/collaborations of different groups. As the programme has an all-island focus, a minimum of two projects will be selected from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
For more information and to download application form, click on Community Food Initiatives <http://www.healthyfoodforall.com/content/view/58/42/>. More information about CFIs and case studies is available atwww.healthyfoodforall.com <http://www.healthyfoodforall.com>.
The closing date for applications is 30th September 2008.
Phone or  email any queries :info@healthyfoodforall.com.
Sarah Fleming
Development Worker
Healthy Food for All
The Red House
Clonliffe College,
Dublin 3.
Tel: 353 1 8360011
Mobile: 353 86 3888728
Fax: 353 1 8367166

Read Full Post »

Things are looking bad for the future of industrial food in Ireland as the Dawn Farm Foods story continues to develop. There have been 90 Salmonella cases reported so far in the UK and eight in Ireland. Salmonella is not usually fatal in the healthy, but a one-year old baby has also fallen ill with it and a woman in her 70s died in Liverpool with salmonella as a contributory factor. This looks like a particularly nasty strain of salmonella, it’s called salmonella agona and is rare, accounting for approximately 1.5% of salmonella infections. There are about 12,500 cases of salmonella reported annually in the UK. It looks like the contaminated meat was used for sandwich fillings supplied to the Subway chain but it doesn’t stop there. According to the FSAI the product has also entered the retail chain via Kerry Foods (as a sandwich filler).

This is a terrifying development for a company that exports more than 80% of its output to 30 countries worldwide. It is terrifying also for the 500 or so employees who must be worried about whether the company can survive this blow. It is terrifying also for the food scientists – this is a state of the art plant in which an additional €28M was invested in 2006.

Chase the bugs

Dawn's Food Map: Chase the bugs

The question has to be asked as to whether science really is invincible in the face of the complexities presented by such a complex distribution chain, bacon zipping here there and everywhere (see picture), getting chopped, mixed with cheese  and being heated more than once. Are there any natural limits to safety imposed by distance, scale and the number of parties in the distribution chain? Questions also have to be asked about the quality of the independent lab inspections in this case: Dawn Farm Foods has said that food safety is its foremost concern and that it has an excellent track record throughout its 25 years in operation. “All of the company’s products are tested prior to release to the market,” a spokeswoman said. “Rigorous externally-run tests and regular audits are also conducted to ensure that its products meet the highest standards as required by customers, the Department of Agriculture and Food Safety Authorities both in Ireland and the UK.” With all this testing, how did this happen?

But above all questions have to be asked about food policy in Ireland – as a nation are we really aiming to be a low-cost ingredients supplier? Are we the back-end of the Fast Food Nation? This story hurts the image of Irish food around the world. So much investment in education, capital, research and mointoring has been poured into developing the industrial food sector in Ireland, but is it working?

For more on the story see here and here

Check out this post by Good Food Hunting on another current meat scare, this time in the US. And have a look at this site if you’re in the mood for a fright – http://foodsafetychat.blogspot.com

Read Full Post »

For food lovers there are two Slow Food events in West Cork this Sunday. The annual Slow Food Picnic is on at Lough Hyne near Skibbereen and in Bantry the local convivium have orgaised an event at Bantry House. It may be too late to book the picnic at this stage as I understand that picnic baskets had to be booked by yesterday (see previous post for details). So if you missed that then why not head along to Bantry House. The event runs from 11am to 4pm and should dovetail nicely for anyone attending the final Masters of Tradition concert at Bantry House at 4pm (see www.westcorkmusic for details). There will be a hogroast, food stalls, demonstrations and Alannah Hopkin will be there signing her new book, Eating the Scenery. Call 027/50047 for more details.

Read Full Post »

Just back from visiting the new Clonakilty Market at the Spillers Lane Car Park. It seems to have gone well, no major conflict. The traders had their names recorded by the town clerk but no more than that. A good crowd came along to shop and have a nose and Darina Allen gave a strong message of support for both markets. She told me that she has also invited the town councillors to visit Ballymaloe and Midleton to see how the market is working their and talk to their counterparts in the Midleton Town Council.
Following the successful launch of the market, the traders have decided to suspend it for the time being pending a public meeting. The meeting will be held on Tuesday August 19 at 8pm in O’Donovan’s Hotel. The meeting is hosted by the committee of the proposed market with invited speakers. All are welcome.
Here are my photos:

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »