So we all know that now, Champagne can only be from the Champagne region of France, using specific production methods unique to the region. Same goes for Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham) from Italy. So what about Ireland? What are our protected indigenous foods?
If you are a food lover, you’ll be happy to know that a handful of Irish food and drink products have been granted Protected Geographical Status under European Union law.
Oriel Sea Salt
Oriel Sea Salt grabbed the Protected Geographical Status accreditation on August 31st, 2016. The production of the Whiskey Smoked Salt begins with smoking 90-year-old Nicaraguan oak kegs, which hold Teeling’s finest Irish whiskey during its last 10 years of aging. The smoking takes place just hours after the kegs are emptied. This ensures retention of the rich whiskey and oak aromas, which are then subtly infused into Oriel Kiln-Dried Mineral Sea Salt. Oriel Sea Salt is known for its powerful taste that allows chefs to use less salt and achieve the same kick.
The San Francisco Salt Company import the salt for their U.S. customers. Says CEO Lee Williamson, “The accreditation of the Oriel Salt being used in our salts is special because it allows us to create a gourmet salt blend that is high in quality and strong in taste. We are the only gourmet salt company in the U.S. to carry the Whiskey Smoked Salt and it’s exciting to see how much success we’ve had through the product.”
Clare Island Salmon
Clare Island Salmon is a variety of Atlantic salmon which was granted Protected Geographical Indication status under European Union law in 1999. Clare Island is in Co Mayo and is known for its pristine waters. This exposed westerly coastline is swept by strong tidal currents, high waves and has 1A rating for water quality. The exceptional water conditions are of crucial importance in relation to the success of the organic salmon. The high tidal exchange rates in the Clare Island area ensure that oceanic water continually flushes through the pens. The strong currents make the fish compelled to swim against them. These farmed fish spend almost the same time swimming as do their wild counterparts. This results in fish with a firm flesh and lower than average fat content.
Connemara Hill Lamb
The Connemara region is known for its mystical beauty, rolling valleys, hills and lakes. This region is often shrouded by the mists of the North Atlantic which aids the growth of its many wild herbs, grasses, heathers and wild flowers. Such plants are the staple diet of the unique Connemara Hill Lamb. The meat is rose red in colour, with a solid deep texture and a light cover of fat. The lamb has a natural succulent flavour and taste with a very pronounced aroma.
In February 2007, Connemara Hill Lamb Ltd. successfully achieved the European Protected Geographical Indication status. The label “Connemara Hill Lamb” is reserved exclusively for hill lamb born and reared within the designated area.
Imokilly Regato is a cows’ milk hard cheese made in Mogeely, County Cork Ireland. The cheese takes its name from Imokilly, an ancient barony in Ireland, now a region in the east of County Cork. The unique heritage and flavour of Imokilly Regato cheese has been formally recognised internationally by the awarding of PDO status.
Imokilly Regato has a distinctive straw-yellow to golden-cream colour which is directly linked to the qualities of the local milk supply. The cheese is manufactured only from milk produced by cows grazing on pasture in the period March to October. The influence of the Gulf Stream on the climate of south-east Cork is such that cows in the catchment area spend an exceptionally large amount of their lactation period on grass. Because of the particularly long grazing season in this area, the milk has a distinctive colour and natural flora that makes the cheese famous.
A blaa is a doughy, white bread roll made in Waterford and County Kilkenny. It was historically made in Wexford too. 12,000 blaas are sold each day; all of which are made by the four remaining bakeries producing blaas: Walsh’s Bakehouse, Kilmacow Bakery, Barron’s Bakery & Coffee House and Hickey’s Bakery.
Blaas are sold in two varieties, “soft” and “crusty”. The soft variety is covered with white flour; this variety of blaa is more chewy. The crusty variety has a crunchy crust. Blaas are sometimes confused with a similar bun known as a bap, however, blaas are square in shape, softer and doughier, and are most notably identified by the white flour shaken over them before the baking process.
The tradition of baking “Waterford Blaa” dates back to the arrival of the Huguenots. At the time and throughout the medieval period Waterford was a powerful trading city. Leather, wheat, flour, butter and other agricultural produce from the area around Waterford were shipped to and from England and the Continent (mostly to Spain, France and Italy).
Oral history dictates that in 1685, a large section of French Protestants were exiled to whatever countries gave them shelter, including England and Ireland. Waterford became a point of attraction to French refugees, they could get back to France quickly if they had to, and it made trade easier.
It was during this time that the Huguenots introduced a bread product made from left over pieces of dough in the late seventeenth century. Waterford bakers believe when the Huguenots introduced the blaa it was called “blaad or blanc” and was originally made from leftover pieces of dough before baking. The” blaad or blanc” was later corrupted to “blaa.” Eaten mainly at breakfast with butter, they are also eaten at other times of the day with a wide variety of fillings, including a type of meat often referred to as red lead.
On 19 November 2013, the Blaa was awarded Protected Geographical Indication status by the European Commission.
I think we can all agree it is time for a food tour of Ireland. Get your digestive systems ready!