#burgerton at Old Farm, Redwood, Co.Tipperary

To my surprise, it wasn’t the cockcrow at dawn that woke me in Old Farm.  No, it was the rustle of an early morning breeze through the huge weeping Beech tree outside my bedroom window.  After a few moments of coming to, realizing where I was and smiling while recalling the craic of the previous evening, its cadence lulled me back to sleep.

#burgerton was the hashtag for the occasion.  Some twitter exchanges about the best burger in Ireland led to Alfie McCaffrey’s (@pigoftheday) issue of an invitation (or throwing of a gauntlet) to come to his and Margaret’s (@OLDEFARM) home for lunch last Sunday.

British Saddleback Pig in Old Farm, Redwood, Co.Tipperary

And so we came, seventeen adults and eight children, if I’m not mistaken.

Burgers for the occasion included

– Turkey burgers smothered in onions and blue cheese, made by @WiseMona and her Chef, Ron,  known to most of us from their weekly column in the Sunday Times.

– Lamb, fennel seed and rosemary burgers made by  Maggie, aka @fiestyfoodie

– Beef and Pork (50/50) burgers with red onion, Dijon mustard,  Worcestershire sauce and oregano, fresh from Maggie’s garden.

– Beef/pork burgers with a black pudding core from Garrett, @butcherlimerick and Fiona, @msButcherLimk

– Beef burgers stuffed with a mix of three cheeses, feta, cheddar and mozzarella, with chopped red onion….also from @butcherlimerick

–  Pure, free-range pork burgers made by our host, Alfie , from Saddleback pigs born and reared here on Old Farm in North County Tipperary.

I had a little taste of all of them and they were absolutely delicious.

Tables were groaning under the bounty of  dishes to accompany (and balance)  the burgers;

– Salads from Sunny Meadow Farm, Portumna

Kimchi from the Hop House- Kimchi Restaurant, Parnell Street, Dublin

– Vlaa’s from Arún Bakery, Stonybatter, Dublin

– Cheese brought by Jonathan and Jessica from  Mossfield, Birr, Co.Offaly ( not far from Old Farm)

– Wine brought by Bríd from Honest2Goodness Market, Glasnevin, Dublin

and a cornucopia of cordials, salads, desserts and breads brought by Karen aka @karenboconnell,   Colette aka @Katzwizkaz,   Lilly aka @MexicancookEire and Alan aka @RedCurtainRev.

A spectacular cake made and  brought by Móna and Ron’s  children became a birthday cake when we discovered that it was Bríd’s birthday.  Like any experienced hostess, Margaret had birthday candles stowed away for an unexpected celebration.

Daili‘s (@DailiPrz)  contribution took the biscuit- she made a Mexican pinata in the shape of a little pink pig.

Piggy Pinata made by Daili Perez

After lunch, Alfie hoisted it on a branch of the beech tree and all the children had a go at bashing it until it burst, spilling sweets and bars all over the lawn.

There’s only one word for what we all experienced at Old Farm- Hospitality.  Generous, hearty, attentive, relaxed hospitality.   We sat at tables on the verandah and on the lawn, moving and re-mingling when a raincloud passed overhead.  Later on, Alfie lit the cheminée and Margaret provided cushions and rugs for all who stayed over.  Conversation and craic went on into the early hours.

Old Farm is situated on rich, fertile land in North County Tipperary, near the centre of Ireland.

Mother Nature was generous here, laying down a bedrock of limestone, providing good drainage via the Little Brosna and the mighty Shannon, and laying on a moist, temperate climate which makes everything grow so well.

Margaret and Alfie were not the first farmers to spot this.   Driving by Redwood Castle en route to Old Farm, on spotting the huge, unlikely edifice which seems to be in the middle of nowhere, you think ” Why?”   Well, putting on the shoes of our forebears, Why Not?

Why did the MacAodhagáin family, chieftains under Brehon Law, build a stronghold in this place?   Why did the Anglo-Normans fight to wrest it from them?  Why did Oliver Cromwell gift so much of the neighbouring land to his Generals in the Cromwellian Plantation of Ireland?   What did the North Tipperary Flying Columns fight so hard for in the Irish Civil War?   Not far from here is the place where they forded the Shannon in 1601, those few survivors of the Battle of Kinsale,  returning northwards to the lands of O’Neill and O’Donnell, starving, depleted and defeated.  They may not have known that the Brehon way of life was over, forever, in Ireland.   What was it that mattered so much to all these people over several centuries of recorded history?  Land is the answer.  Rich, fertile agricultural soil; the giver of life, the mainstay and identity of a people.

Looking south from Old Farm, the horizon is marked by the Devil’s Bit.  To the east, pasture and tillage rise gently towards the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains.  To the north and west, the land falls away towards the Shannon, still a narrow river before it passes under Portumna bridge and spreads out to become the vast expanse of Lough Derg.   When barges plied their trade on the inland waterways of Ireland, up to the late 1950’s, this land was, among other things,  a grain belt. Every autumn the precious cargo was loaded onto barges to go south to Limerick and north  via the Royal and Grand Canals, to Dublin.

Dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean lei – Saddleback Sows gossiping at Old Farm

At Old Farm, British Saddleback  pigs are reared for meat and for breeding.  Polonius the boar presides in his own paddock, keeping company with any one of the five sows at any given time.  Each sow bears a litter of piglets (or bonhams) once or twice a year. They live outdoors…as the expression goes, ‘ Happy as a Pig in….’ with sties and old spreading trees for shelter.  Their feed is organic and completely free of any genetically modified foodstuffs.  So far.  Alfie worries that GMO’s are being introduced insidiously into the food chain and insists that everyone needs to be vigilant about it.   Right now, these beautiful pigs live happily, well cared for and breeding by the rhythm of the seasons.  They go to a local butcher in Portumna for slaughter.

Terroir is what you  taste in Old Farm Pork and Bacon.  The taste of North Tipperary.  We had it in Alfie’s  pork burgers- succulent and full of flavour.  Bacon rashers at breakfast next morning lacked a certain something…yes, additives!  After breakfast, Margaret brought us out to see the pigs wallowing in their element. Underfoot, the scent of chamomile rose to meet us.  Gentle grunts filled the air.

Little Saddleback Piglet comes out to say Hello at Old Farm

” You should hear the sows murmuring to their babies”  said Margaret. We were all delighted.   And so were they.

All around here the land is well farmed, well minded.  The word ” tasty” is used to compliment a good farmer.  Its produce is the best- it has to be, given its provenance.

Go on, if you haven’t had free-range pork or bacon before, try it.  It’s part of what we are.


About haysparks

Viewing the world, the human condition, our history, evolution and health through the prism of food.
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11 Responses to #burgerton at Old Farm, Redwood, Co.Tipperary

  1. What a beautiful post Catherine! I couldn’t have put it better! Lovely time chatting with friends and eating good food!

  2. M. G. says:

    Really enjoyed reading this Catherine. Well done and your knowledge of the history and geography of the region is impressive. I knew I should have listened in school but I am now 😉

  3. Catherine, thank you for a lovely post! We should have included a guided tour of the Castle too! Next time!

  4. Colette says:

    Lovely post, Catherine. We always feel the same way after a stay with Margaret and Alfie. Sunday was a fantastic day, spent in good company and eating great food.

  5. Love the idea of a burger cook-off! Sounds like a great time was had by all.

  6. Pingback: A Christmassy Post – Oldfarm Pork « Follow the Food Link

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