James Whelan Butchers: A Taste of the South

The other day a request came across my desk inviting me to speak to a group of potential start up business about running a food business. One of the headings they asked me to speak on was, “How to keep the offering fresh”. This had nothing to do with shelf life or meat refrigeration. It was asking me to speak about how we keep coming up with new things to hold our customers’ interest. I thought about it for a while and realised that although this is an obvious business tenet, I have to admit that it’s not one I spend a great deal of time on! My own curiosity, love of food and passion for new things drives everything and while it may not be ‘businessy’ enough, it’s just the natural way of things around here. I feel that by being passionately interested in food, I discover interesting things. It’s a simple approach. I wish I could tell you that there was a grand design, a five step scientific or commercial plan in place, but it really isn’t anything other than a personal zeal for food and the joy I find in sharing those discoveries with everyone else.

The best way to explain is to give you an illustration of how the most recent additions came into existence. The best things are often the culmination of months or even years of dabbling; (or should I say development perhaps?) I test, taste and investigate before even considering something as a new product for the shop. Our new pulled pork and pulled beef pitas have just been launched in store. If you’re looking for something that will truly excite the taste buds then you have to try our pitta pockets filled with either pulled pork or pulled beef, topped with our own recipe red slaw and our own in house BBQ sauce. So let me give you the genesis of these delicious carnivorous delights and the long road to their launch at JWB. Adam Perry Lang and Pat Whelan

For some years now I have been interested in barbecue foods and each summer at James Whelan Butchers we have built on our outdoor offering of food and tips, despite, at times, the inclement weather. About two years ago I had the good fortune to meet American chef Adam Perry Lang who also owns a very successful restaurant in London called Barbecoa (the original word for barbecue as it became popular in Europe). Barbecoa bills itself as a “cathedral to fire and food” and basically it has taken all those manly methods of smoking, barbecuing and grilling and married them with great cuts of meat to create a heady theatrical mix of food and excitement for the diner; a veritable feast for all the senses under one roof. At close quarters I had the privilege of watching the expert Adam Perry Lang work over an open flame and it was awe inspiring. The flavours achieved were scrumptious and I returned from London with a fervent appetite for exploring the whole area of smoking, brining and fire cooking methods. I immediately invested in some serious domestic equipment and have, in my spare time, been trying and trialling various ideas over the past 24 months. I’ve had a ball and the smoky wafts have often transported me back to my days of childish imaginings of cowboys on the open plains of America. I may not have had a covered wagon but I was in my own way like one of the early pioneers discovering new culinary pleasures at every turn. Despite protests from my family that I was just being indulgent, I knew it was all most productive and the tastes, aromas and senses I experienced all heightened my enthusiasm for this relatively primitive but skilled way of cooking.

As with most things, once you begin to develop an interest in an area you start to notice more of it. Suddenly all sorts of things, from television shows to actual people with similar interests, began to cross my path; it was quite uncanny. Food programmes focusing on American Barbecue began to appear more regularly, piquing my interest even more and then I made a fortuitous connection with a fantastic chef from the US, Will Drake. I couldn’t have wished for anyone more authentic as he is from Birmingham, Alabama, USA! While I, the butcher, was hungry for more information on barbecuing, Will, the chef, wanted to sharpen his butchering skills and was also interested in learning about our artisan approach to beef production; Destiny.

Homemade BBQ Sauce RecipeTo cut a long story short, Will has now come to Ireland where we can trade our skills and knowledge. It is an exciting time. He is staying until Christmas and we have installed a wood smoker in the shop. Both Will and the wood smoker have already proved to be a fantastic addition to the JWB family. And so we have developed our two new products, Pulled Pork Pitas and Pulled Beef Pitas. Will and I prepare the cuts of beef and pork and then we cook them low and slow in the wood smoker. Just walking past the machine causes you to salivate and I never tire of trying the resulting delicious, meltingly tender, flavourful meat. Add that to our special red slaw and our very own BBQ sauce and you have nothing short of epicurean paradise wrapped in a pitta! It’s an authentic and exciting taste of the Southern States right here on your Tipperary doorstep and has to be tried sooner rather than later. So there you have it, something wonderful borne out of nothing but a personal interest in a new flavour. Maybe subconsciously I am “trying to keep the offering fresh”, but personally I prefer to think of it in terms of sharing the great things I discover with my customers.

By the way if you are dropping by James Whelan Butchers at the Oakville Shopping Centre make sure you say “Hi” to Will; after all he’s a visitor and we want to make him feel welcome. Have a great week.

This post was written by me, Pat Whelan, owner of James Whelan Butchers and a passionate advocate of local artisan food. My family have been producing quality Irish Angus beef for generations using a traditional dry aging process. This tradition is one that I continue to practice at our abattoir on our family farm in Garrentemple, Clonmel. These posts aim to impart some of the wisdom to readers and help them get the best out of the meat they eat! Our meat is available online here! I welcome your feedback to Pat@jwb.ie

We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of  James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Handweavers Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, Rathmines and Swords in Dublin. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers

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