As the stone at the front of their shop says, McCarthys have been “Surviving since 1892” and Jack and Tim are the fourth and fifth generation of McCarthys to run the butchers shop.
This is no ordinary butchers’ shop however, as in September 2010, twenty five members of The Black Pudding Fraternity, or ‘Confrerie des Chevaliers du Goute Boudin’ paraded through Kanturk in full regalia before awarding Jack a gold medal for his ‘Boars Head’ Kanturk black pudding. The fraternity was set up in 1963 in Mortagne-au-Perche, in France, by a group of lovers of fine food to promote the tradition of eating the black pudding.
While experts in the black pudding field, the McCarthys are not just about black pudding. These artisanal butchers employ traditional curing techniques and sell nitrate-free pork products produced locally from free-range pigs. With innovative products like their award winning Sliabh Luachra air-dried beef and their fabulous spiced bacon these are butchers who stand out from the crowd. McCarthys also sell a full range of venison products farmed at Millstreet Country Park.
The McCarthys also have an online shop so lovers of quality free range meat products don’t have to make the pilgrimage to Kanturk, but can browse and buy online. And you will find ‘Boars Head’ Kanturk black pudding, North Cork Pancetta, thin strips of air-dried beef and traditional dry cure rashers.
O’Dohertys black bacon is simply a legendary bacon having won, amongst other awards, the accolade of Ballygowan food writers best Irish food product. The fame of this bacon has spread far and wide and as I browse the visitor’s guestbook, in the shop, I find I am in good company with such famous patrons as The Hairy Bikers, a string of politicians including Ian Paisley, Gerry Adams, Enda Kenny and documentary film makers.
So what is it that is so special about Pat O’Doherty’s Black Bacon? And what is Black bacon?
The answer to the first question has a lot to do with the distinct advantage of being from Fermanagh. What I mean by this is that half of Fermanagh is covered in lakes and the stunning lough Erne is said to contain an island for every day of the year, why this fact is important to O’Doherty black bacon is because, Pat’s saddleback Pigs roam free on Inishcorkish Island in the middle of Lough Erne, foraging for their own food which includes grass, wild herbs, roots and shrubs.
The answer to the second question is black bacon is pork that has been cured with salt herbs and other secret ingredients for 3 months using traditional methods. Again this method of curing is in stark contrast to more typical modern wet curing techniques which injects a soup of salt and herbs into the pork, as this is the fastest and most economical way to cure pork. Black bacon also does not produce the typical white scum when it is fried, Pat says that the white scum “is a mixture of phosphates and other chemicals injected into the pork during the modern day wet curing process.”
This post gives me great pride to write and it is not a biased post, because although I shared a common torture to Shane Stewart (Mr Wylies Physics class at St Michaels college Enniskillen) son of Stewarts Butchers head honcho Gabriel Stewart, I am delighted that they were crowned the UK Butcher’s Shop of the Year 2010.
Not only did they lift the Northern Ireland regional title at the ceremony in the Sheraton Hotel on London’s Park Lane, repeating their success in 2008 and 2009, but this year they went one better and won the national award, beating the competition from all 6 regions in the UK heats. Stewarts are officially the best butchers in the UK!
A family butchers in every sense of the word, owner Gabriel Stewart works in his shop along with his sons and daughters, including Miss Northern Ireland 2004, Kirsty Stewart.
So despite all this success, it goes to show that success in the industry does not actually guarantee business, because I happened across their wonderful sausages as my mother had started buying them.
I see my mother maybe 3 times a year and my God! Was I delighted by the chorizo sausage she served me up one morning with an Ulster fry, the conversation started with ‘Mum? Where did you get this sausage?????’ Now my mother has been a supermarket shopper for 40 years, why did she suddenly start buying Stewart’s sausages? Was it because they won awards? Was it because they are an exceptinal business? No! It was because my uncles wife had them once and recommended them. What does that say in this modern internet, blogging age? Word of mouth is still the cornerstone of any local business.
So let me finish this celebration of three fine butchers by saying this
Please buy your meat from your best local butcher, because it’s local, most likely free range and they use traditional methods that are chemical free.
Have a good Christmas all, Im on Turkey and ham Duties (may I say I am in Ballycastle Co Antrim this year and bought my traditional cure Ham from McKays butchers in Ballycastle and the Turkey from a local farmer).
See you all next year, may 2012 be the dawning of the new age it is supposed to be (the start of a new way of living, which I believe will be a more self sufficient, grow your own, river cottage existence for us all) and not the doom and gloom and fear mongering end of the world that is being put about..