Imagine making jam, not in a commercial factory but simply on a home stove in your kitchen, one saucepan at a time; all stirred individually by hand and tasted every time.
It sounds charming, idyllic even, but it’s surely not a feasible way to run a business. Yet this is exactly how Crossogue Preserves in Tipperary makes its jam and has done so superbly well for years. So well, in fact, that Veronica Molloy and the award-winning team at Crossogue now creates more than 85 varieties of handmade jams, curds, marmalades, chutneys, spreads and coulis in their farm kitchen on the banks of the River Suir near Thurles.
Crossogue, like many of Tipperary’s best food producers, works together in a network to promote the very best food Tipperary has to offer. Their goal of creating nutritious foods is what binds them.
There are cheesemakers and bee-keepers, fruit farmers and cider makers, butchers and bakers, and sauce and jam makers. There are also ice-cream makers, oil producers, meat producers, and sweet and crisp makers, amongst a vibrant network of producers.
These dedicated artisans behind the truly outstanding food produce of Tipperary are creating gourmet experiences that are crying out to be savoured. You will find them on the shelves of our shops and in cafés and restaurants the length and breadth of the county – not to mention throughout Ireland and beyond.
Many of these food producers work directly on the land. It could reasonably be said working the land in Tipperary, home of the Golden Vale and the most fertile land in Ireland, gives them something of an unfair advantage.
History tells us that Tipperary has long been a gastronomic destination. Ancient middens of sea shells have been discovered during archaeological excavations in Cashel, which lies more than 50km from the sea. The town subsequently became the seat of the Munster kings and the court would have taken full advantage of the fare harvested from the surrounding land.
Cashel’s reputation for culinary excellence continued into the 20th Century when Chez Hans, the longest running family restaurant in Ireland, and the Cashel Palace Hotel (currently under refurbishment) received Tipperary’s first Michelin stars in the early 1980s.
Great produce is at the heart of excellent food in any restaurant and that tradition continues throughout the county today. Tipperary’s food producers personally grow the finest quality ingredients that nature provides before turning them into something unique.
From the world renowned Cashel Blue Cheese, to the extraordinary native breed of Killenure Dexter Beef cattle and ‘naturalised’ Irish Piedmontese Beef, as well as local specialities like Boulabán Farm ice-cream, Emerald Oils, and the award-winning eggs and organic chicken broth that comes from the pasture range happy hens on Magners Farm. In fact, all of these wonderful food products come from family farms.
It is the sheer innovation and integrity of what Tipperary’s food producers have to offer with their products that makes them stand out nationally and internationally.
Consider Galtee Honey: the family behind this product have been instrumental in saving the native Irish honey bee from extinction through their unwavering commitment to rearing and caring for queen bees for the past three decades on their farm near Cahir.
At the opposite end of the county, at Coolbawn on the shore of Lough Derg, Brookfield Farm is also devoted to producing honey as nature intended through careful and sustainable farming. Julian and Helen Armitage make their delicious elderflower drinks straight from Irish Hedgerows, while Three Men in a Trailer provide their range of gourmet ketchups and high-quality catering from their mobile food outlet.
Beef dripping. Who would have thought of that? Clonmel butchers James Whelan, that’s who. Their product won the ‘Golden Fork for Best Food Product in Ireland and the United Kingdom’ in London. Then there is Con Traas’s apple juice, going to the UK National Fruit Show and winning in the ‘Best International’ category. There is also James O’Donoghue’s award-winning LongWays Cider, and the Crosse Sheep Milk Company, which supplies artisan cheese suppliers all around Ireland and has also developed a range of dairy products that includes ice cream.
And who hasn’t enjoyed Ireland’s best-selling upmarket crisps, O’Donnells, made from potatoes grown in the Suir valley. And how about Peter from Ayle Farm, in the farmers market, meeting his customers and providing them with so many artisan chutneys, juices, relishes, cooking sauces and preserves it hurts your brain to choose.
Nationally-acclaimed, mouth-watering black pudding – check, Inch House. Dry cure bacon – check, Crowe’s Farm. Honey and spelt bread – check, Mag’s Home Bakery. Barm Brack that travels the world, or which you can have in the café attached to the town centre bakery – check, Hickey’s of Clonmel. The butterscotch sauce made at The Tipperary Kitchen, described by UK Great Taste Awards judges as heaven in a bowl – check. Cooleeney Farm soft cheeses from goat or cow’s milk – check, and Lough Derg Raw Milk Cheddar – double check.
We have it all in Tipperary, sure we even make a traditional Mexican corn Tortilla that’s sold in restaurants all over Europe!
• The Tipperary Food Experiences 2019 initiative allows you to visit the homes and farms of hard-working members of the Tipperary Food Producers Network and see first-hand how they create some of Ireland’s finest quality food and drink. Click here for a full list of Tipperary Food Experiences providers, a calendar of events, and information about the Breakfast Champions who are creating an authentic Tipperary breakfast using the finest of our network’s produce. Full information at www.tipperaryfoodproducers.ie.