McCarthys of Kanturk - Special Irish Foods & Drinks & The People Who Make Them

Jack & Tim McCarthyDee Laffan talks to the fourth and fifth generation butchers, McCarthys of Kanturk, about their business - and their hugely popular Pig in a Day courses

The excellence of McCarthy’s Butchers of Kanturk has long been celebrated; their meats are renowned countrywide and their legendary black pudding continues to make tongues wag and mouths salivate, even those from royal lineage!

Since the Queen was served their black pudding at the State Banquet during her visit in 2011, Jack and Tim McCarthy have been as busy as ever in the butchers shop and have also extended their business into the educational sphere, hosting The ‘Practical Pig’ day course.

“We held our first course two-and-a-half years ago; it was a great success, and people have been asking us about it since”, said Tim.

Jack McCarthy and his son, Tim, proudly represent the fourth and fifth generation of this famous butchers business. Through generations of their family, the skills, knowledge and recipes that are alive and well today in the shop in Kanturk, were handed down, passed on, and learned.

“We have family ledgers dating back to 1881”, Tim told me. “When you put that into perspective, that was 40 years after the famine! The information and recipes that are in those ledgers are the same that we use today. Our famous black pudding that’s on sale in the shop is the same recipe from the ledger, perhaps tweaked a bit over the years, but its origin is in there.”

McCarthys of KanturkWith that much ancestral skill being passed on to people through their “Practical Pig” courses, it is no wonder that the most recent one in January sold out weeks before the event itself. The recent day course received rave reviews from attendees, so no doubt the next one on April 26th will be even more keenly anticipated.

There are a number of reasons why the course came about, but the main one is that Jack and Tim found customers were yearning for knowledge on butchering. Even chefs would ask how they could get more from their pigs. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in learning forgotten skills and butchering is one that people are now eager to learn. There are also a lot more people keeping pigs of their own for slaughter, and they need to help to understand how to get the most from them.

The ‘practical pig’ courses give an insight into pig production for chefs, foodies and people interested in learning more about pork processing. Over the course of a day they educate people in all areas of pork butchering, giving practical exhibitions in slaughtering, boning/trimming/portioning, curing, sausage making and pudding making, with a lecture on breeding, feeding and free range pig farming.

There is also a talk on each day from a top chef; the chef at the last course, in January, was Bryan McCarthy, Excutive Head Chef of the highly regarded Greenes Restaurant at Hotel Isaacs in Cork, who is well known for his policy of using fresh and natural local foods. There is a chance to roll up your sleeves and get involved in every stage of production, and you’ll also get to take home recipes.

“We find the main question we get asked is, ‘what’s the difference between pork and bacon?’ It’s usually the first question people want to ask, but the last one they will ask. It’s amazing how many people don’t know the answer, but are also almost embarrassed to ask. Our course will educate people about pork, but also in the skill of butchering, something that we should all know about, especially as consumers of meat.”

Tim McCarthy was one of the many speakers and food producers at this year’s Foodie Forum in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), which took place on Tuesday 3rd February 2015. The one-day interactive conference purposefully showcases the best in Ireland, but especially from the west coast.

In Tim’s class, he spoke wholeheartedly about Irish pork production and the need to buy Irish and buy local, also encouraging the culinary arts students of GMIT to remember to use Irish pork in their future kitchens, saying “it’s in your hands now.” He demonstrated some butchering skills and how to use the pig from nose to tail. (Other highlights included JP McMahon's demo on reviving our taste for vegetarianism by using vegetables as many ways as we can, like pickling & fermenting cucumbers, and by adding meat condiments like stocks and dehydrated/ground meat to add extra taste to dishes; and Kevin Thornton and Sally McKenna gave a wonderful talk and demo on cooking with seaweed and other sea veggies.)

The next Practical Pig in a Day course in Kanturk, is on April 26th 2015, from 9am-5pm. Places are limited and the cost is €195 per person, which includes lunch on the day and a gift pack for participants at the end of the course. More courses are planned for later in the year, including some in Dublin.

McCarthy's of Kanturk, Main Street, Kanturk, Co. Cork (029) 50178


Dee LaffanDee Laffan is a freelance food writer and editor. Formerly editor of Easy Food magazine, she has written for the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent. She is a proud supporter of Irish producers and their products, and takes part in judging for food competitions including Blas na hÉireann and the Great Taste Awards. She is a member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild and secretary for Slow Food Dublin. Twitter @deelaffan


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