What a week, Valentines Day and Pancake Day just three days apart! Such celebratory alignments indicate that between March and early April we’ll be very busy with all the spring celebrations; St Patrick’s Day, Mothers Day and Easter will come quickly on the heels of each other. The retailer in me has to look ahead but the farmer and natural instincts that I bear tell me that all we have is now.
Having one foot in the shop and one foot on the farm still, I am acutely aware of the seasons and the individual joy each brings. For me a favourite time is that period of change from one season to another and I can feel it in the air as I write, despite the chill. There is always freshness when we are on the cusp of a new season. It is hard not to marvel at the change from winter to spring and it never ceases to thrill me even though I’ve seen my fair share of them by now. Just as you think the cold will never end suddenly little clues start appearing. I look out the window and appreciate the sudden stretch in the afternoon light; as I hurry across the car park sometimes, muffled up in scarf and gloves, the sight of a little crop of snowdrops on a grassy verge under a tree is another little indicator. And outside of Mother Nature when I see the giant red cardboard hearts being removed from the newsagent’s window it is yet more evidence that the game is up for winter and now it’s only a matter of time before something new will be with us.
It’s probably the main reason why I’m excited to be introducing something kind of new myself this week. I’m very proud to reveal our most recent addition to the range at James Whelan Butchers. Now you will familiar with Rack of Lamb, the meat with those little prehistoric bones jutting out. It’s the kind of dish that wouldn’t look out of place in a show like Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall or the Flintstones. Rack of Lamb has always had a somewhat posh air about it and once you start adding those little white hats to the tips of the bones when cooked, we’ve moved into fancy chef-y territory altogether. While I have to admit to being quite partial to Rack of Lamb our new product which has me very excited encompasses all that is good about the traditional Rack of Lamb but with a modern twist, greater versatility and flavour and super value for money. Ladies and gentleman I give you the JWB, Rack…………… of……….Bacon! Ta dah!!!
Ok so that’s all very dramatic but I won’t apologise. In my opinion it deserves a bit of a drum roll and a little razzamatazz as it has taken me eight long months to perfect and birth the JWB Rack of Bacon and let’s face it that’s only a few weeks short of a full term pregnancy! (And before I get any irate letters, rest assured I purely use that to demonstrate the time that has gone into this. I certainly wouldn’t dream of comparing the two when it comes to endurance or stamina).
Bacon is an intrinsically ancient Irish dish. For many years it was part of the weekly diet with bacon and cabbage a traditional favourite in many households. I would have grown up in a house where bacon was eaten quite regularly and it was cooked in water, I might add, none of your fancy Coke or, God forbid, expensive cider. One of my particular favourites was when the accompanying cabbage and or turnip was cooked in the bacon water adding all the great flavours of the bacon to, what my childish mind considered, boring vegetables. As an adult my views of cabbage have changed for the better, but full of the bacon flavours it was always one of my favourites.
Rack of Bacon has been carefully developed to encompass all those wonderful memories of Irish bacon days of old, but with a new look that makes it perfect for the modern family. Leaving those bones poking from the meat serves two very distinct purposes. First of all it is a great aesthetic, it just looks interesting and as we eat with our eyes just as much as our mouths, our food should look as exciting as it tastes. That look can make it a great centre piece and so if you like to add a little drama and theatre to your meals you could take this to the table as a centre piece and carve to an appreciative audience. The second benefit, which is probably more important, is taste. Cooking meat on the bone will always be tastier than without. And for the hungry at the table there is nothing better than privately having a little medieval buffet of your own with the leftovers later on; no need for napkins or plates, the bone serves as its own cocktail stick.
I have no doubt that some of you are wondering what took the eight months that I mentioned earlier. Well for a start making great bacon is quite an involved process. There are ways to do it quickly that will compromise the taste somewhat, or there is a traditional more artisanal way of curing. For many years now James Whelan Butchers has had a reputation for excellence and so we have a great deal to live up to. It’s hugely important to me that anything worthy of a place in our displays must carry that JWB seal of excellence and so to get it right, we have to trial and trial and trial again and try a few different infusions and brining recipes before I’m happy that it makes the grade as a JWB product. This one took a little longer than I initially anticipated but the result is probably the best bacon you will ever taste and a cut of meat that I want everyone to embrace. Try yours this week from James Whelan Butchers in the Oakville Shopping Centre or check it out online at www.jameswhelanbutchers.com.
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 Food Market Monkstown and Avoca Rathcoole. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers