Moira firm recreates cured meat recipe found in 1783 edition of the Belfast News Letter

A recipe for a Belfast bacon found in a copy of the Belfast News Letter of 1783 has led Jonny Cuddy to create a novel eating experience.

The old ragged paper was found in an attic and has led Jonny to enbrace his passionate, developing new meat cures and learning about the history of food.

Now an award-winning producer of cured meats from Moira, Jonny and sister Janice have developed a widely respected and successful small business around pigs reared on the family farm near Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone.

Together they run Ispini - Irish for sausage - curing a range of meats, some based on salami and chorizo found in many parts of Europe. The innovative cured meat from the old News Letter recipe is Ispini’s award-winning Black Strap Mollases Lomo, a dry-cured meat from pork tenderloin.

Ispini's range of award-winning cured meats

The popularity of the historic lomo with food lovers here, in the Republic and Britain encouraged Jonny to revive several other tastes from the past including the Ulster roll – a pancetta-type rolled, air-dried and smoked ham, as well as a 150-year-old recipe for a jerked beef once popular in Belfast. He describes this as similar to biltong, the popular South African air-dried beef strips.

Jonny confesses to being passionate about developing new meat cures and to having learned a lot about the history of food here over the past few years: “I love bringing back a bit of nostalgia based on what was produced here in the past while trying to mix it up with what the Continent does best.”

Jonny and Janice remain driven by the flavour of their range of cured meats. This is the priority for them and it also explains why their original meats have collected so many prestigious awards in the UK Great Taste, Blas na hEireann Irish National Food awards and the British Charcuterie Awards. Their salami and chorizo gained all the medals in the charcuterie categories at Blas na Eireann in Dingle a few years ago.

They formed Ispini in 2015 in a farm diversification and “to make really good food, excellent cured meats”.

Jonny Cuddy of Ispini Charcuterie in Moira turned a novel recipe for a cured meat found in 1783 edition of the Belfast News Letter

“But I didn’t want to be just another producer copying European charcuterie. I wanted to create my own path,” he says.

They both knew they would have to invest time in creating the market here for their charcuterie.

This awareness led them to open a small shop in the centre of Moira village. A decision also influenced by their love of meeting people and chatting about their hand cured meats. He’s also included other local artisan produce in the shop such as cheese, bread and condiments.

The small shop was the first in Northern Ireland specialising in charcuterie created by the affable siblings and included the farm’s products, such as salami, chorizo and saucisson, which he has created especially from his own rare breed pigs and those of other local breeders.

Jonny, who runs over 300 sows on the farm, had always hoped to open a shop as a way to increase knowledge of charcuterie among shoppers here and to encourage more to sample his range of meticulously hand cured meats. He was drawn to the shop in Moira because of the village’s reputation as a good food hub and also because he lives there with his wife, a nurse in Belfast. He commutes most days to the farm outside Aughnacloy.

The Ispini shop, which is within a quaint courtyard close to the main street, has quickly become a magnet for foodies from all over Northern Ireland and from across the border as a result of their success in food events there.

Jonny had a broad range of skills from working on the family farm to carry out much of the refurbishing work on the premises, a former café, in the picturesque village.

“Opening a shop had always been in our minds since launching our first charcuterie products in 2015,” he continues. “What it does is give us the opportunity to talk directly to shoppers about our products, especially at weekends, and, above all, encourage them to taste the meats and other artisan foods. The education process should also benefit other shops selling our charcuterie throughout Northern Ireland.

“We’ve been showing and sampling our entire range to encourage shoppers to buy and enjoy at home either as main courses, starters or as snacks.

“Our decision to set up the shop has also been influenced by the growing trend towards cooking from scratch at home over the past few years. It’s a trend that looks likely to continue. Many local people also readily try cured meats on holidays to France, Spain and Italy and also order them in restaurants. But they don’t know always know where to buy them here. Our shop now provides a local charcuterie focus for them to purchase for enjoyment at home. They are also able to sample first new tastes that we are continuously coming up with.”