TEN TIPS FOR PORK AND VENISON
ree range pork has a good fat content to give the meat flavour F and succulence during cooking. F or those watching waistlines, fat can be trimmed from rashers and pork cuts after cooking.
3. M eat of free range pigs is dark pink in colour, and wild boar is
dark pinky brown – this is normal. The texture when cooked is firm and moist.
4. W ild boar has a wonderful, rich gamey taste – great for
casseroles and slow roasting with heaps of garlic and woodland herbs like thyme and rosemary.
5. Great crackling is one of the benefits of free range pork. The
rind is dry so crisps up beautifully in the oven. To help things along, score rind finely, then rub with oil and plenty of salt before roasting. Start with the oven on high, then lower the heat when the rind starts to crisp.
Patrick and Miriam Mulcahy with Breda Doherty
The holistic approach
Di Curtin discovers that a pig by any other name still tastes as sweet
here’s much talk about relying on ourselves to get through these hard times. An idealistic view, certainly –but how many are actually seeing it through? In the farming community, times are certainly tough. Some farmers are taking destiny into their own hands – with astonishing results. Pat and Miriam Mulcahy, of Ballinwillin House in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, have taken a ‘holistic’ approach to their farming and B&B enterprise. As Slow Food enthusiasts and members of Good Food Ireland, the pair are passionate about local food and natural farming practices. Ballinwillin Farm creates artisan products from its own free range pork, venison and Kerry beef. Top that with a vineyard in Hungary making the family wine range, and here you have a fully self-reliant operation. Established in 1995, the free range pig herd includes Saddleback, Wild Boar, Iron Age pigs and Irish Grazers. Irish Grazers were originally from Ireland, renamed Tamworth by Sir Robert Peel, a former British Prime Minister and founder of the Metropolitan Police Force, who took them to his estate of the same name in Staffordshire. As Pat says, “Robert Peel had the audacity to rename these pigs, so we are now having the audacity to give them the original name back”. Iron Age Pigs, he explains, are another breed known here for centuries – a hardy cross breed between Wild Boar and Irish Grazer. Pigs live outdoors all year round. Sows give birth outside in special houses in a natural way, with no farrowing crates to be seen. Bonhams (pronounced bonavs) are reared outdoors too, with their mothers very 86 F&W
quickly learning how not to crush them when they lie down. The survival rate is very high, proving the crate system isn’t necessary in pig farming. Ballinwillin pigs take 14 months to become mature enough for processing – outdoor living and freedom of movement means growth is slower than with a conventional pig. The end result is delectable meat with a good layer of fat, firm texture, and intense flavours. Finished pork is processed by TJ Crowe’s in Co Tipperary, who make sausages, black and white puddings and rashers on Pat’s behalf, to his own specific recipe. A Ballinwillin breakfast is sheer delight – the full Irish features the farm’s own produce and free range eggs with homemade bread and preserves too. Hungarian Red Deer have also been farmed here since 1985. Fresh venison and wild boar are used for delicious salamis, made by a specialist German salami maker. Miriam is a superb cook, conjuring her ‘one pot wonders’ for the dinner menu, using nothing but the farm’s meat and local vegetables. Accommodation is located in a newly converted outbuilding in the farm yard. Superbly furnished rooms have state of the art bathrooms and luxurious linen and towels. Meals are often taken around the big pine table in the heart of the kitchen. Miriam says, “you’d never know who you’d meet when you stay here”. Many of the family are in and out, including the Mulcahy children and friends, plus neighbours and other relatives too. For any visitor wanting to get a real taste of Irish farmhouse hospitality and a sense of life on a working farm, this is the place to come.
Chateau Mulcahy’s wine range is made on Pat and Miriam’s 46 hectare estate and vineyard in Hungary. Expert Hungarian winemakers use a variety of grapes to create 15 different wines – sampling takes place in the farm’s tasting room and cellar. In the coming months, Pat is expanding the special function and farm tour side of things – where groups can walk the farm before enjoying a home cooked meal afterwards in a lovely converted barn complete with a Hungarian-style, brick-built wood fire. School tours will give local children the opportunity to see how meat is produced in a natural environment. Special occasion functions are also catered for. The Mulcahy family has taken a giant leap to become self sufficient as a farm and business enterprise. An example of how things can turn around when those at the helm really do take control of their own success. Ballinwillin House and Farm, Mitchelstown, Co Cork. Tel: +353 (0) 25 24777; www.ballinwillinhouse.com or www.hungrywines.com
6. Use oriental spices to flavour free range belly pork before
roasting. Rub the rind and meat with a mix of ground star anise and Szechuan peppercorns with sea salt. You can leave this in the fridge overnight for a more infused taste. Drizzle with a little oil and slow roast at 180ºC/gas mark 4 for an hour and a half or until tender and skin is crisp.
7. Fresh apple sauce is a time honoured accompaniment to roast pork – but you could try plum or cranberry sauce too.
8. Venison makes a flavoursome stew. Use it as you would beef.
You can use traditional root veggies like carrot and parsnips, or perhaps add some Middle Eastern touches with ground cinnamon, ground coriander and snipped semi-dried apricots.
9. Dry cure free range bacon rashers can be fried with no danger of any unsightly white moisture oozing out in the pan.
10. You can buy Ballinwillin’s farm produce and wines online and from the farm shop on site.
Miriam’s venison casserole 2 tablespoons sunflower oil 100g butter 900g stewing venison, in chunks 1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 1 tablespoon flour 1 fresh bouquet garni salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 bottle red wine 175g streaky bacon, chopped 20 baby onions, peeled 175g button mushrooms, wiped
1 Heat oil and butter in a large flameproof casserole and brown the venison chunks all over. Do this in batches if necessary.
(Note: beef can be used instead of venison and carrots and parnips are optional additions)
5 Meanwhile, crisp bacon, and brown small onions and mushrooms in a little butter in a separate pan. Add to casserole and cook for a further 30 minutes or until meat is meltingly tender. Check seasoning. Serve with mashed potatoes and vegetables.
2 Lower heat, then add onion and garlic and cook for a few moments till beginning to soften. 3 Stir in flour and cook for a moment. Add bouquet garni and seasoning. 4 Pour over wine and bring to bubbling. Transfer to a pre-heated oven at 175ºC/gas mark 3 for 1½ hours.