“The pig was probably the first domestic animal to be brought to Ireland and many country people can remember the time when most rural households killed at least one pig a year. It was a complicated business, with the men and women each having their particular jobs.
The men did the killing, cleaning, butchery and salting, while the women dealt with the trotters, internal organs and any other parts which were to be cooked fresh. The hams were usually put into a blend of salt, saltpetre and brown sugar for several days and then smoked, preferably over oak chippings.
Afterwards, they were hung up on iron hooks from a beam called 'the meat stick' which ran across the kitchen, where turf smoke from the open hearth gave it a special Irish flavour.
Black pudding was made with the blood, chopped fat, oatmeal, herbs and seasoning; this mixture was loosely filled into lengths of the cleaned intestines, tied in circles and then boiled. Next came ‘the parcelling out’, when portions of the fresh meat and black pudding were sorted out for the neighbours and delivered by the children of the house - this was a very important custom as a number of households exchanging gifts after a killing meant that fresh meat was available much more often.”
(‘Good Food From Ireland’, Grafton Books 1991).
Today there is a sense that we may be coming full circle – recent years have seen an unprecedented resurgence of interest in farming practice, domestic gardening and everything to do with small production.
While pork production is going through a difficult phase at the moment, demand for free range and/or organic pork is rising and, although demand still exceeds supply, it is becoming more widely available – we have recently enjoyed supplies of free range saddleback, for example, from Nigel Cobbe’s online company Simply Sourced, which delivers to your door (with no delivery charge on orders over €100, nationwide).
Speciality pork products have always been a strength in Ireland and really good black pudding, especially, has been consistently easy to find. Thanks to that great butcher, the late Eddie Twomey, the West Cork town of Clonakilty is known internationally for its deliciously grainy pudding, and there are many others throughout Ireland – some made in small quantities by individual butchers for local consumption, others reaching a wider market.
Annascaul Black Pudding, for example, has been made in Ashe’s butchers shop in this pretty village on the Dingle Peninsula since 1916, and the puddings made to the original recipe, without artificial additives or preservatives, by Thomas Ashe today are sought after throughout Kerry and beyond.
Up in Newport, Co Mayo, people travel great distances to buy Kelly’s black and white puddings and sausages; a unique product is the traditional ‘putóg’ black pudding, where the casing was made using a sheep’s stomach. They run their own abbatoir, have recently completed a new production unit and have an export licence – all evidence of consumer support for this great traditional product.
Roast Loin of Pork with Black Pudding Stuffing, served with Roasted Vegetables & Apple Sauce
In this whole wholesome recipe from Roly's Café & Bakery (Gill & Macmillan), you get the benefit of both delicious good quality pork – and an artisan black pudding. Simple, traditional Irish food at its best.
Click for recipe