A trip to the Golden Vale and some of Ireland's finest Food Producers
On Monday 12th March Charlie, Ainne, Andrea and Sumeda (Head Chef) and his team boarded a train to Charleville, Co Cork from Heuston Station. The reason, to meet face to face with key food producers delivering to Aqua and understand more of the food processing carried out.
First Stop was Bluebell Falls for some incredible hospitality from Victor and his team. A generous spread was laid on for us with gorgeous smoked salmon, of course a choice of taste sensations from their herd of goats and very welcome coffee as the day was just a tad cold.
After an introduction from the Bluebell Falls team, a tour of the milking parlour and cheese production facility was commenced. Everyone donned white coats and protective head and shoe covers. The sight was dashing as you can see in the shots below.
The wonderful part of Bluebell Falls is that the goats graze freely and happily in the field next door, presenting themselves for milking morning and evening with very little herding needed. A daily batch of cheese is processed in a a traditional and natural process for distribution from Bluebell Falls.
The simple process is the goats are milked, the milk is then transferred next door to the dairy where it is chilled, pasteurised, and made into curds with vegetarian rennet. Once set, the curds are hung to strain for several hours in natural muslin bags, before the cheese is salted, rolled into a traditional log shape and hand packed. This is a young goat’s cheese, ready to eat a couple of days after making. All very straightforward but of course there is a sprinkle of magic in there, the secret of which is closely guarded by Breda, Chief Cheese Maker.
Of course a happy goat means great goats cheese and they sure are happy at Bluebells, there are even names for many of the older animals, too many to remember for us...
Our Chefs got to contribute to some recipes too, taking home a sundried tomato cheese and a particularly delicious dried almond and apricot cheese.
Goat's Cheese Is Very Healthy!
Goats cheese is an obvious choice as it contains less than 1% salt and twice the protein and half the fat compared to cows milk.
But there is more:
- It is also a good source of calcium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin K, phosphorus.
- it contains less lactose and is therefor easier on the digestive system!
- It is low on cholesterol, so good for the heart!
At Aqua our menu includes Bluebell Falls Honey & Thyme Goat Cheese with Butternut Squash, Walnut & Pomegranate Seeds from our a la carte menu.
After a quick stop at the Charleville Park Hotel for a very tasty lunch, we boarded our mini coach and headed for Ballyhoura Apple Farm located in Kilfinane, Co Limerick.
Ballyhoura Apple Farm
Wonderful story around how this pioneering business came into existence, check it out here in full.
The overall story of Ballyhoura Apple Farm is one of triumph over adversity, would recommend anyone to visit and take courage from the path this business navigated.
A quote from a few years back expresses the true character of their brand, a uniquely Irish one flying the flag for all artisan producers.
"We must build our economy from the bottom up. In little kitchens and sheds all over the place, people are creating real wealth by starting their own craft and food businesses. Fantastic, practical, grassroots people with initiative and drive beavering away in spite of the recession, lack of funding and over-regulation. These are the people who need to be nurtured, encouraged and supported. Their ideas will grow jobs not in tens or hundreds but in sustainable ones and twos in local communities and, if supported, will help rebuild our country."
Of particular interest to the culinary team is the cider vinegar produced at Ballyhour, but from juices to dressings to jellies and to marmalade, Ballyhoura Apple Farm is making the most of what grows on trees.
The product range is really quite innovative, with one of our favourites being Hot Friskey a gorgeous treat on a cold afternoon in March.
Not to mention the feats of engineering being achieved on site, the equipment used is custom made by Maurice and is truly impressive. We were all confident leaving that if we want to fly to the moon we might just give Maurice a call to see what kind of space ship he could put together for the journey!!!
Apple Cider Vinegar Is Very Healthy!
Used for over 2,400 years, here are some of the many benefits attributed to Raw Apple Cider Vinegar as a healing agent and natural antibiotic:
- Helps to balance the bodies PH (acid/alkaline)
- May help to reduce blood pressure
- Aches pains/Sports injuries – 3 cups ACV, 1 cup of Epsom Salts in a hot bath, soak & relax, rinse afterwards and feel revived. Keep hydrated during & afterwards.
- Diet-aid – 10ml ACV in 150mls water/BAF juice with or before meals to satiate hunger resulting in less food consumption and weight loss.
- After exercise, it is a natural pick-me-up, helps to remove excess lactic acid which causes muscle discomfort.
- Easy to take – Add 10mls to 250mls Ballyhoura Pure Juices as a natural detox.
- Safe around your children and pets as a non-chemical antibacterial surface cleaner. (Dilute 1 part ACV with 2 parts water and spray on worktops, sinks and floors.
- In the kitchen, add to sauces, salad-dressings, vinegarettes and in bread making.
- Dilute with water and use as a natural skin toner, after shave, hair rinse tonic, mouth freshener
- Helps with Acne
- Kills odour causing bacteria.
- Natural antiseptic, antibacterial
- Treat minor burns, grazes, skin blemishes-dilute 2 parts water with 1 part ACV
- Treat acid reflux – dilute 10mls in a glass of water or BAF juice of your choice.
- Arthritic relief – soak a cloth in diluted ACV and apply to affected area.
JJ’s Craft Brewing Company Ltd
Our final journey took us over to Kilmallock, and Limerick’s first craft brewery.
A true labour of love is this artisan business, we were met by the owners who spoiled us with beer tastings, and absolutely delicious homemade bread baked using their own Abbey Stout.
Hugo’s Lager is a Pilsner style lager brewed with the finest of Irish lager malt, saaz hops and German lager yeast that produces a fresh crispness with a pleasant aroma that will linger with every mouthful.
We also learned that this lager was named after a family dog, and bears his likeness on the bottle.
Bills Red Ale is brewed with 100% Irish ale malt, Munich malt, caramels and chocolate malt which gives the beer slight caramel and chocolate tones, together with hops like Columbus, Summit and Nugget to impart an aromatic, spicy and herbal aroma with a clean finish, which makes this beer an interesting experience.
Balbec IPA is an interesting mixture of hops giving this beer a spicy, floral and grapefruit character with a clean balanced bitterness. Thus combined with the finest pale malt, flaked oats, cara and Munich malt makes this beer a desirable thirst quenching, flavoursome beer.
Abbey Stout is brewed with the finest of ingredients. We have combined hops with a hint of fruitiness and slightly dry crispiness with chocolate malted barley, to give smooth, chocolatey caramel tones, that will stay with you long after the last mouthful.
The good news is that you can book a tour by appointment to experience their passion for the craft of brewing, to taste the special malts and smell the hops that combine to produce award winning beers, accompanied of course by their home-baking flavoured by our beers. Could not recommend it enough!
Exciting new additions to their product range will be Mead & Ginger beer, we can attest that they both taste wonderful.
Of course there had to be a reason why we included a visit to a brewing company on our trip down South, well, the culinary team and Managers were interested in tasting the beers to extend our own offering at the bar and also pretty sure some recipes may have changed hands to reproduce the delicious breads, watch this space...
A really great day was had by all the team, we hope to plan another field trip in the coming months to keep in touch with all the wonderful Irish food producers making our job so pleasurable in the kitchen.
A courtesy stop was made to a Charleville public house before our transfer back to the Station and our return journey to Dublin!!