Pat, one of our best known butchers and deli owners, is behind the unique Black Pudding Festival, the only event of its kind on the island of Ireland, as an important part of the revived Fermanagh Food Festival.
He’s best known for his tasty and widely acclaimed Fermanagh Black Bacon that’s produced in his distinctive butchery and deli in Enniskillen from his pedigree pigs which graze freely on Inish Corkish, a remote and uninhabited island he owns on Lough Erne. The pigs feed freely on the island’s herbs.
He will be showcasing dozens of black puddings from around the world which are now displayed in his shop. Local people are being challenged to enter their own recipes for an award to be presented at the finals of the competition next month. Featured in his Belmore Street shop are an awesome smoked pudding that he’s created with spicy blood sausages from Belgium, the Netherlands, Scotland and boudin noir examples from France.
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“The festival is a development of my fascination with the history of food, particularly beef and bacon,” he explains. “My time spent in the local library has led to the revival of two historic foods – Fermanagh Black Bacon, a dry-cured bacon with spices that’s based on a technique dating back generations, and Traditional Fermanagh Corned Beef.”
Meticulous scouring of the archives found what he believes to be the very first reference to the black pudding in 800 BC, when it was mentioned in Homer’s classic saga ‘The Odyssey’. “Homer famously described the way people felt then about black puddings, writing: As when a man besides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted.
“In the Odyssey, Homer had his champion get into a fight ‘around the sausage’ for a prize of a stomach stuffed with pig blood and fat,” he says.
And black pudding was not just food for poor farming families. “It was seen as food for royalty such as Henry VIII who always included black pudding at breakfast.”
He speaks with the impressive authority of someone steeped in the history of the pudding that’s generally made from pork blood and a relatively high proportion of oatmeal.
Black puddings have been in existence for as long as animals have been killed for food,” he explains. “What makes them so interesting is that every nation has its own specific ingredients. Some south American puddings even include chocolate and orange. The French, furthermore, have always favoured fresh garlic, while Mexican puddings are heavily seasoned with chillies and can be really fiery. There are English puddings with beetroot and fresh vegetables. The fat content is key to the flavour and also changes from country to country.”
The pudding, Pat continues, was once considered a delicacy in many parts of Britain and won major food awards for quality and taste. There were also different ways of serving them.
“In Greater Manchester, for instance, the pudding is traditionally boiled and served with malt vinegar out of paper wrapping,” he says.
The Stornoway black pudding, made on the Western Isles of Scotland, is widely valued and has been granted Protected Geographical Indicator of Origin status by the EU.
The Black Pudding Festival is being backed by the local council and chefs there including Noel McMeel, executive head chef at the five-star Lough Erne Resort, and other chefs in restaurants across Fermanagh. They will also be creating original dishes from their own black pudding recipes.
“I am really excited about the month-long festival and very keen to draw out as many different pudding recipes as possible. My research has indicated that virtually every community has had its own distinctive recipes with different ingredients and techniques for crafting them,” he continues.
“Many farming families in Ireland had their own recipes for what was seen in the past as an immensely nutritious meal. The focus then was on putting every part of the animal to good use for the wellbeing of the family,” he explains. “The festival is designed to encourage them to revive these for other people to sample and enjoy. We’ll select the best and give their owners a chance to cook live on stage in front of a ‘live’ audience. The winner will then receive a special award,” adds the enterprising and knowledgeable butcher.
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