On the Thursday evening after a days judging, I went with a small group of fellow judges to visit Hannan Meats in Moira. I had heard little bits and pieces about their main feature, their maturing room, however seeing it in person was something which I could not prepare myself for.
Hannan Meats were established in 1991, founded by the current owner Peter Hannan. Peter was born into a farming family in County Kildare, so he started in the industry from a very young age going on to work as a meat farmer and running abattoirs.
Hannan Meats work with Beef, Lamb, Poultry and Pork goods however they specialise in Glenarm Shorthorn Beef. They are a stakeholder and founder partner of the Glenarm Shorthorn Beef Scheme. The scheme is essentially a brand which works like a PDO/AOC whereby cattle under this title must follow certain criteria. They must be sourced within Northern Ireland, must be Farm Quality Assured, and their farms must be inspected before being able to merit the name and premium. There are several other criteria which must be adhered to which you can read about here;
So all this Beef has to be matured somewhere, and that’s where it gets exciting.
The brick wall at the back of this picture is no ordinary brick wall. It is made from Himalayan Sea Salt blocks. A total of around 1000 hand cut blocks were brought over from Pakistan’s Punjab region at the base of the Himalayas. Peter explained to us that contrary to belief, the salt is not there to extract moisture to extend the ageing process of the beef, it is there for another purpose. It inhibits certain bacteria growth by purifying the air in the room as well as concentrating the flavour of the meat between 28-45 days. We all asked why specifically Himalayan Salt and the answer was because of its purity. Himalayan salt was originally formed from marine fossil deposits around the Jurassic era and has been kept landlocked and away from the modern world and all its pollution keeping it extremely pure.
Peter was kind enough to show us around all his facilities where we saw their production room for burgers and sausages, as well as the spectacular ageing and storing rooms.
To prove just how effective their maturing method is, the guys at Hannans have some ‘experimental’ meat, which I am holding below.
This Beef is over 400 days old, I believe the kill date was April 1st 2015. I really wish I could have tasted it, the guys said they all have and it almost like eating jerky if you eat it as is.
Another product which I was extremely keen to see was their Guanciale.
Guanciale is an Italian recipe, a cured meat from pork jowls or cheeks. It is rubbed and spiced, and the Hannans recipe is super garlic driven which I loved. The texture is similar to, yet more delicate than a pancetta. I didn’t try any when I was there but couldn’t resist buying some to take home, now to get it supplied in London for my fix!
The final part of this trip had to be to taste the Beef. Peter took us to The Plough in Hillsborough where we were treated to a meaty (and fishy) feast.
It did not disappoint. The Beef had a full rich, yet sweet flavour, and it melted on the palate. Even after a full day of judging (eating) I cleared my plates, and had room for the plethora of desserts we were offered. Plus a few local gins and whiskies!
Little did i know that my Hannans journey would continue the next day…