STOCK AND BARREL Fionntán Gogarty of Wildwood Vinegars, Rathlacken, Ballina. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Andy Moran’s talent for Mayo football has been simply remarkable and awesome, Cillian O’Conner has kicked some amount of scores for Mayo, and Ciaran MacDonald’s talent may have come from outer space… These are my unshakeable views. Now I have a new one. Wildwood Vinegars produce the best vinegars I know!
I have been rediscovering their flavours from some bottles that are nearly a year old, and I have realised the vinegars are getting better with age. The fruit flavours have become more complex without losing their structure. When I played around with them, I discovered these aged vinegars have multiple uses with foods, and they have been added to many of my meals of late.
Fionntán Gogarty, who makes his award-winning Wildwood Vinegars in the village of Rathlacken, near Ballina, already ages his regular vinegars, which that have been flavoured with naturally harvested botanicals, for one year. His aged vinegars spend five years in oak barrels. The resulting taste and texture have to be experienced to be believed.
In Switzerland some vinegar producers transport their barrels of vinegar high up into mountain caves and leave them there for ten years and more! Some producers even experiment by switching their aging vinegars between oak, chestnut and walnut barrels. And if the Swizz people are doing it then it must have a value! It’s good to see interpretations of traditional aging methods being used here in Mayo.
My experience of and enthusiasm for local foods is constantly growing – there’s so much out there to try – but today I am telling you: DO NOT allow life go by without at least trying these unique vinegars in one shape or form. They have totally grown on me, and, as you can tell, I truly love them.
Wild-picked flavours in Fionntán’s range include damson, elderflower, mountain thyme, fuschia blossom, barrel-aged cherry. Let’s start with just one of Fontan’s classic and popular vinegars, and rule the rule over a couple of easy to use recipes.
Fionntán believes his berry-flavoured vinegars age the best to develop complex tastes and nuances. However, my year-old elderflower vinegar tasted similar to an aged wine in depth and layers of taste. Delicious!
To experience a basic version, marinate some sliced tomatoes in vinegar for ten minutes (or longer), add chopped chives or a spring onion, and add some crumbly, hard goat’s cheese, or a soft mozzarella. Drain the mixture, add good-quality cold-pressed oil, and serve the lot on a bed of lettuce. No need for honey or mustard. The blackberry fruit will shine through.
Blackberry balsamic can make the easiest of sauces for meat. If you’re cooking chicken, lamb or beef, splash some of the balsamic into the pan towards the end of the cooking time. Allow the vinegar and juices to bubble up – only 15 seconds or so. Remove your meat to a warmed plate, pour the juices over and allow to rest before eating.
Or try adding a couple of tablespoons of blackberry balsamic to your Bolognese sauce, you won’t be disappointed!
Wildwood’s rich, intense, flavoured vinegars perfectly complement a tray of roasted vegetables from the oven. Simply time your veg – whether it’s butternut squash, cut courgettes, onions, peppers or whatever – so that five minutes before cooking ends, you drizzle the blackberry vinegar around your vegetable tray, and stir.
I cannot end without suggesting you try drizzling a delicate amount over your next portion of ice cream in a bowl! Get ready…
The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.