A Christmas dinner that's pure Cork

You can really dream of a green Christmas if you source all your food locally, within 20 miles of Cork. KATE RYAN gives it a go...
A Christmas dinner that's pure Cork

Rob Fitzsimmons with a free range bronze turkey at the East Ferry Farm near Midleton, Co Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

MORE than ever, local farmers, growers and producers need our support this Christmas.

Earlier this year, I wrote in The Echo about Lisa Fingleton’s 30-day Eat Local Challenge, focusing on food grown or farmed in Ireland.

It got me thinking about how Christmas dinner would fare in Cork within a radius of 20 miles (32km).

This isn’t about what you can find in your local supermarket, but how many elements of Christmas dinner are grown and farmed, or made from food grown and farmed, within that radius.

Some items are easier to source than others: dairy, eggs, or locally raised beef or pork. Other items take a little more effort.

There are surprisingly few poultry producers in Cork.

Sourcing locally grown vegetables is a perennial problem, and as this year has ticked on, small vegetable farms have not fared well in the current energy crisis.

One redeeming feature of the vegetables and fruits we eat at Christmas is that they are seasonal. Potatoes, carrots, parsnips, red cabbage, Brussel sprouts, sage herb and apples are all abundant and easy to source.

There are foods completely out of bounds for our 20 Mile Christmas Dinner. Chocolate, citrus, vanilla, glace fruits and Christmas spices are all out.

And when it comes to fruits this time of year, it’s limited to apples and pears; juicy cranberries, pomegranates, figs, and sunny clementines are all imported.

Despite this, there is much to celebrate with for a pure Cork Christmas dinner.

Here are my tips for finding the best of Cork produce to grace your table.

Poultry

For many, the sight of a grand, glistening, bronzed turkey, goose or chicken laid upon the table is the essential element of Christmas dinner. A better raised, better quality bird will always deliver more flavour and more meat, so it’s well worth spending the extra few euro.

If it’s a turkey year in my house, I order from my local craft butcher, who sources from a local producer. Talking to your butcher has many benefits, such as specifying the grade of bird at a size specific to your needs so you’re not spending more than you must.

BELOW: Ballycotton Seafoods is one place to source your festive seafood
BELOW: Ballycotton Seafoods is one place to source your festive seafood

It can be prepared any way you need (crown, boned, rolled, tied, etc), and they are ready to give you top tips on the best way to cook it, too.

Seek out your local butcher and show them some love!

O’Sullivan’s Poultry at The English Market serves the city, sourcing both reared and wild poultry for sale at their stall.

As they do daily, Daphne and her team skilfully and deftly prepare your chosen festive bird. They are the only stall in the market to offer wild Irish game, and pheasant would make for a unique talking point at the table. They can even prepare a three-bird roast for you: duck inside a pheasant inside a turkey - wouldn’t that be something!

Direct from Producer

If you want to shake the hand that feeds you, buy direct from the farm.

East Ferry Farm in Midleton raise their own free-range geese and turkey as well as farm fresh duck.

In West Cork, Skeaghanore Farm, near Ballydehob, raise free range geese and their signature ducks. Order online for delivery to door or on-farm collection with both.

Fully Festive Hams

Most pig meat produced in Ireland is raised indoors in intensive breeding farms. Pigs by their nature are outdoor animals and love to root and forage which benefits the soil and develops fantastic flavour in the meat. If you’ve eaten free range pork or ham, you’ll know there’s no comparison.

Martin and Noreen Conroy raise their rare breed, free range Saddleback and Pedigree Gloucester Old Spot pigs on green pastures, wheat, turnips and kale at Woodside Farm in Ballincurrig, East Cork.

They cure all their own meat and sell only what they have raised and made themselves. Their Christmas hams fly out the door every year, so be quick.

Peter Twomey began raising pigs on his former dairy farm in 2020. Glenbrook Farm in Whites Cross produces free roaming and rooting, happy, antibiotic-free pigs that gift incredible tasting meat.

There are plans to open an on-site farm shop, but until then Glenbrook Farm pork can be sourced via Farmsy.ie and Byrnes Butchers.

Caherbeg Free Range Pork, near Rosscarbery, has only ever reared their contented piggies outdoors.

Roaming and antibiotic free, a small number of Christmas hams are made available each year to buy.

 Tom Durcan with his award-winning Spiced Beef in the English Market. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Tom Durcan with his award-winning Spiced Beef in the English Market. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Buy direct, via Neighbourfood, some Supervalu stores and independent butchers’ shops countywide.

Spiced Beef

Time to head back to your local butcher! There is one name synonymous with Cork’s speciality beef dish - Tom Durcan - but most craft butchers will offer spiced beef made to their own recipes.

From McCarthy’s of Kanturk to Ó Crualaoí in Fermoy, Ballincollig and Wilton. From O’Neill’s Craft Butchers in Clonakilty to O’Mahony’s at The English Market (who also do a limited amount of spiced West Cork buffalo).

If there’s a butcher on your high street, they’ll tell you their spice beef is the best!

Fish and Shellfish If fish is to make an appearance on Christmas Day, these top tips will help you stay as local as possible without catching it yourself!

Seek out fishmongers that take the catch from small day boats. These boats fish close to the shore, haul limited catch, and sell the whole catch locally. Ballycotton Seafood is a great example of this.

For shellfish, look to local aquaculture producers for fresh Irish mussels. Grown in open sea on ropes, they are fresh and delicious. Roaring Water Bay Mussels and Bantry Bay Mussels are two fantastic producers.

Rossmore Oysters are farming fabulous oysters off the East Cork coast at Carrigtwohill. Plump, pristine oysters, direct to your door.

Vegetables December is a great year for Irish local, seasonal vegetables. It couldn’t be easier to source everything you need for the whole Christmas.

Neighbourfood and Farmsy.ie are two online shopping platforms with the ethos of supporting local producers. Both source from an array of vegetable suppliers and thanks to clear labelling can tell you what’s been grown here or flown here.

My Goodness stock excess veg from local, organic and chemical-free growers, and Cork Rooftop Farm on Coal Quay produces salads and microgreens year-round as well as pasture-raised eggs.

Farmers’ Markets are a gold mine of micro producers selling excess produce, or tap into your local area GIY network for any allotmenteers with veggies to sell or swap.

Head to Mealagulla Orchard in Knockane, Ovens, for their native Irish variety apples for your apple strudel or mini apple pies
Head to Mealagulla Orchard in Knockane, Ovens, for their native Irish variety apples for your apple strudel or mini apple pies

Fruit When it comes to Irish fruit in winter, it’s apples and pears. Delicious and versatile, they can be as celebratory as they are comforting.

Think apple strudel or mini apple pies dolloped with whipped cream, or rosemary poached pears with a honey and sea salt caramel sauce. Seek out Mealagulla Orchards in Ovens for their native Irish variety apples.

Apples and pears are perfect served on a cheeseboard; what we lack in winter fruits we make up for with our fabulous county-wide collective of farmhouse cheesemakers.

Drinks

Think drinks are out of action? Think again!

Longueville House Brandy made from their own orchard-grown apples makes for a perfect festive tipple or pop the bubbles with Killahora Orchards sparkling champagne ciders and perry.

At Kinsale Mead, their Irish wildflower Mead is a wonderfully versatile drink as an aperitif, shaken into a cocktail, or as a digestif. Down at Nohoval Apple Wine, their fantastic range of blossom to bottle apple wines are spectacular.

Gins by Clonakilty Distillery, Rebel City Distillery, and Ballyvolane Spirits are distilled from whey-based spirit made in Cork from a by-product of the local dairy industry.

All the ingredients we need for a Pure Cork Christmas are right here!

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130
EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more