Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘bandon’

The first of the four part series of the Slow Food MasterClasses series in Urru, Bandon was a great success.
We had a great night with over 20 attendees covering chef (Good Things Cafe)
to Slow Foodies to experienced domestic cooks and new mums. We even had our
first guy via twitter! Proof of the pudding is in the eating and that vast
majority of those who only came for one night last night have signed up for
next week again!

The next one is tomorrow night, Tuesday March 10th, 7.30pm at Urru Cluinary Store, Bandon.

The subject will be Pork in all it’s splendour!

There are a couple of spaces available, so please call Ruth on 023 8854731 or email to slowfoodwestcork@gmail.com

Look forward to seeing you there!


West Cork Slow Food Convivium
Co. Cork
Ireland

Read Full Post »

 

 

Martin Carey, Craft Butcher, Bandon

Martin Carey, Craft Butcher, Bandon

Picked up this from the Cork City Slow Food blog. Sounds brilliant and it’s in Bandon too!!
Slow Food West Cork Convivium, Urru Culinary Store, Dan Maloney Meat Centre and Martin Carey Butchers all of Bandon have joined together to provide a unique opportunity to give a masterclass by meat and culinary experts.
Visit the site for full details:
http://corkcityslowfood.blogspot.com/2009/02/slow-food-heritage-series.html

Read Full Post »

Robert McCutcheon, my father, with my daughter Asha

Robert McCutcheon, my father, with my daughter Asha

Every summer in my youth during our annual holidays in Dunmore East my father’s extended family would make a pilgrimage to Rocketts of the Metal Man in Tramore. Seated on long benches we would feed on bacon ribs, crubeens and the flouriest spuds on earth. An important part of the ritual was that at some point during the meal one of the party would stand up and recite The Lake Isle of Innisfree by Yeats – it was hung on the wall. It’s merit as a drinking game aside the poem itself struck a chord, an affirmation of the simple summer values of living outdoors and unadorned food. The lines that stuck with me were:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow

Whilst we occasionally had beans in our garden at home we never had bee hives. I think it was always somewhere in my father’s vision of his retirement that bee-hives and peace would be part of it. As luck would have it the bees came looking for him before he retired. The first year they took up home in his compost bin and I contacted a local beekeeper to take them away but the second year he took to them. By the time he retired 2 years later he had gathered 5 hives and was hooked. After 6 years of beekeeping he has over 30 hives, sells his honey in the Urru shops, Bolands in Kinsale and Hosfords and regularly helps novices by selling starter colonies. He’s secretary of the County Cork Beekeepers Federation which is based around the city and is one of eight local federations that are part of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers. I had just been examining a report issued in May entitled Benefits and Costs of Biodiversity in Ireland that estimated the value to the economy of bees at €220 million a year and wanted to talk to my father about the state of beekeeping on the ground.

At present there are about 2,500 beekeepers in the Republic of Ireland managing over 22,000 colonies of bees, and another 500 or so in the North. With an average of less than 10 hives each, it is very rare that local honey gets beyond the local market, generally being sold in small shops and markets. In contrast to elsewhere in Europe and the US, almost all Irish beekeepers begin as hobbyists. This results in a particular mindset that is less bent on exploiting nature and more about quality than quantity. Social contact with other beekeepers through local federation meetings and honey shows creates a tight community and so helps with the spread of best practice in honey production and disease control.

This year it’s been a slow start to the summer – cold, windy and lacking in any spell of sustained heat. The weather pattern has been particularly frustrating for beekeepers. Despite the spurt of growth in May with here and there profusions of blossom, the temperatures have remained below 18°C. Most flowers don’t produce nectar in any significant quantity without heat, blackthorn and sycamore were particularly disappointing though the dandelions were good. One notable exception to this temperature dependence is a relative newcomer whose impact is very strongly felt – oil seed rape. This is a mixed blessing, as my dad describes it. Oil seed rape comes early in the year and provides nectar in huge quantities with very high sucrose levels – 55% as compared with 15-20% in most wild flowers. This is great to help colonies build up quickly after the winter but can mean that other sources get neglected. Once bees find a good supply of nectar they return, working non-stop until it is exhausted. It also makes them a bit ratty and hard to work with, they are buzzed up like kids on Fanta and working overtime. The honey produced from oil seed rape is prone to crystallisation and lacks the depth of flavour of other honeys. My dad usually mixes it with intensely flavoured ivy honey and encourages the crystallisation so that he gets a smooth creamed honey. Another nectar producing blossom that appears less vulnerable to the cold is fuchsia, which produces good flavoursome honey and is an important source for beekeepers along the coast of West Cork, where it is most abundant. Fuchsia also has the advantage of a long season with multiple flowerings in the year.

The relationship between beekeepers and farmers can be very important. Many commercial crops depend on or are improved by bee pollination. In return beekeepers generally need access to little pockets of unused land for their apiaries. The ideal site is sheltered with a southerly aspect and has a high ditch in the flight line to lift the bees away from humans. Most importantly beekeepers need farmers to recognise the value of biodiversity – in order to thrive, bees require a multiple of wild sources through the year, not just the commercial crop that the farmer is growing. Whitethorn and bramble are particularly valuable but are also severely affected by hedge cutting. And how grassland is managed has a big impact on clover. Clover has a tremendous value to the farmer for fixing nitrogen and wild white clover (not the New Zealand variety) produces delicious light honey, but it is damaged if the grass is cut for silage just as the clover comes in to flower.

The beekeeping associations are very keen to encourage new beekeepers. If you are interested in getting started you will find a community of enthusiastic people willing to share their time and experience. Learning the practice requires time spent observing a beekeeper at work and there is also an annual training course that runs in September/October with outdoor demonstrations in April and May. Check out the websites below for more information if you are interested. Otherwise look out for local honey and keep some clover and even a few dandelions on your lawn to help keep these wonderful little workers buzzing.

Read Full Post »

James O'Brien, Valley View Free Range Eggs and Declan Walsh, egg producer

James O'Brien, Valley View Free Range Eggs and Declan Walsh, egg producer

If you’ve been watching Channel 4 lately you can’t have missed the deluge of food programmes that they launched at us with a view to raising awareness and encouraging debate about food production, animal welfare and healthy eating. The strongest point of attack in the Big Food Fight was on intensive poultry production with both Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall rounding the guns on battery egg production and industrial chicken rearing practices. I found Jamie Oliver’s conclusions particularly pragmatic and felt that they showed some understanding of the plight of the farmer. His basic plea to consumers was to pay for as much welfare as they feel they can afford. He urged leadership on the part of supermarkets and regulators to ensure not just urgent action but that the costs are not all lumped on farmers, who have to take the price they are given. If change is too swift then it will destroy the production base and we’ll end up relying on imports. That said battery egg production in particular looked awful, half a dozen birds crammed into a tiny cage with no floor just wire. Their beautiful red feathers are gradually shorn from their necks, wings and backs by the wire until after 10 months of laying an egg a day they are pulled out half bald and sent for pulping. They can do nothing but eat, drink and lay eggs – nothing that could constitute the “freedom to express normal behaviour”, which is one of the five freedoms in animal welfare.

 

 

 

Having ably demonstrated some of the more distasteful and cruel practices employed in poultry farming Jamie confronted both industry representatives and the supermarket chains to get a response. Essentially change is coming, battery cages as we know them now will be outlawed by the EU in 2012, what will replace them is unclear, most likely some kind of “enriched” cage, with perches and a scratching area. However, some of the supermarkets will have removed battery eggs from their shelves well before then – Waitrose and Sainsbury’s in particular giving assurances of urgent action to Mr Oliver.

 

Having watched Jamie’s Fowl Dinners I was more convinced than ever, but I was still a bit unsure about what exactly free range means, he was a bit light on details in this regard. In the back of my head are comments how there’s free range and free free range, which presumably means the real diehards are still driving to a woman out the country and bringing their own cartons. Should I be doing this too I wondered? So this week I paid a visit to James and Mary O’Brien at Valleyview Free Range Eggs in Bandon. James and Mary established their business producing and selling free range eggs in 1985 with just 200 birds. When they started up free range was a tiny niche in the egg market and it was a struggle to get the supermarkets to stock them. There was relatively little interest in and value on bird welfare and paying a premium for eggs was generally considered an expensive luxury. By contrast my local Supervalu now has over 60% of its egg space devoted to free range – a good indication of market share. Sadly, I know that this is not the full story as it ignores eggs used in ingredients and restaurants, most of which are from battery hens and most of which sneaks under the radar of conscience. In fact 68% of laying hens in Ireland are still kept in battery systems.

 

So what does free range mean anyway and should we really be looking for “free” free range? Well, to further my education James took me to one of his suppliers – Declan Walsh near Ballinascarthy. Declan keeps 4,000 free range hens a typical sized unit for Irish producers nowadays and operates under the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme. In the UK 18,000 would be considered average. The Irish regulations state that hens must have continuous day time access to open-air runs on ground which is mainly covered with vegetation. The maximum stocking density is not greater than 1,000 hens per hectare of ground available to the hens and the land must be dedicated to the free range flock, so no other animals can graze it. The hens must be accommodated in a well constructed insulated house with a floor space of one square metre per seven birds. The hens on Declan’s farm were in great form – the temporary lift in the weather surely helping. They were outside picking around in the grass and scratching for whatever it is that so obsesses them. There appeared to be plenty of social interaction and both their feathers and curiosity were well intact. James told me that as a farm enterprise, free range egg production stacks up pretty well. He currently has 4 West Cork farmers supplying him and he is always ready to take on new local suppliers. The return on an initial investment of between €250,000 and €500,000 compares favorably with other land use options.

So what of the woman out the country and free free range? What also of the unstamped eggs sold at markets or in small shops? Well, all I can say is that if you’re sure of what you’re getting then you don’t need me telling you anything. But if you’re not sure, then could you be getting repacked eggs that are not free range at all? I have looked at what the Bord Bia Quality Assurance definition of free range is and I am satisfied that this is a tight system with excellent traceability and welfare regulations that are high by international standards. There may be other definitions of hen heaven but if like me you’re buying well down the food distribution chain then regulation and supervision is needed. And if good farmers are going to have a chance of making a living whilst maintaining decent welfare then there needs to be a level playing field where you get what it says on the carton.

Read Full Post »