To Brine or Not to Brine (2014 Christmas Diary #2)


Well, I’ve had the notion o f ‘brining’ the turkey for a long time and now that I have all I need to actually do it, I’m getting the ‘collywobbles’. Won’t be such a great ‘Christmas Day’ celebratory meal if I’m sitting there with an inedible bird and four ‘told-you-so’ faces looking across the table at me … more to follow, watch this space.

to brine or not to brine

Now I did mention that I picked up my ‘Christmas Fry’ sausages (and they had to be Matterson’s) in Euro Spar,  at Watchouse Cross Limerick, well here is a little story.


The city of Pigs, now let me explain, Limerick is well known and famed for its bacon production, “everything but the squeak was used” was a well known saying in the city. Indeed the offal stews, skirts and kidneys, pigs toes (aka trotters), eye bones and back bones ensured a healthy childhood full of the most delicious food that was the only affordable way to feed the big families that abounded in Thomondgate, (We were eight children).  Many of the households in areas such as the Abbey, Thomondgate, Carey’s Road, Parnell Street, an area better known as the ‘Yellow Road’. (known as such because of the yellow clay under the road. The first road world have been bare, exposing this soil, so the road would have had a yellow appearance.) had homes where pigs were reared in the back gardens and fed on scraps from the houses that populated the surrounding area. In Thomondgate alone (my home patch) there were many people rearing the pigs, the Sherlocks, Keanes, Murphy’s, Connelly’s Heckman’s. The ‘Barrell in a Pram’ was a regular sight as some of the scrap collectors went from door to door collecting the scraps daily. It would have been inconceivable that this waste be dumped. It was the best of ‘swill’ for our happy pigs in Thomondgate.

Not a scrap wasted, Green and Recycling was everywhere.

Although the vast majority of the pigs were imported from the local environs.(Great stories of the pig markets in Kilrush, Kilkee, Doonbeg) The city pigs were a premium product that were reared on the scraps from the tables of people homes (as well as the local hotels, hospitals and restaurants) Thousands of pigs were slaughtered and processed weekly in the Limerick Bacon factories, who in the height of their production were the most consumed pork products in the British Isles. In the 19th century Limerick Hams became renowned throughout the British Empire with Queen Victoria insisting on Limerick hams at her Christmas dinner. Limerick pork through the O’Mara’s was even exporting as far away as Russia and Romania in 1891 and 1902 respectively.

The four great bacon factories in Limerick were Matterson’s, Shaw’s, O’Mara’s and Denny’s each competing for local, national and international trade out of Limerick city during the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Matterson’s Sausages coming home for Christmas.

Now my memory of Matterson’s was a rather large cold factory just off of Watchouse Cross, on the edge of what is now a sprawling estate known as Moyross. My aunt Bernie Benson, worked there, Bernie was married to a certain Paddy ‘Magwa’ Lysaght who in his heyday played his rugby for Young Munsters RFC and I understand was a brilliant player who was on the famous winning ‘Bateman Cup’ team. In fact Matterson’s had been in Limerick for a long time before the Moyross factory appeared on the scene. I’m reliably informed by the ‘Mammy’ that Bernie also worked in the older Domnick Street / Parnell Street premises of which I have only a vague memory but even before that J Matterson & Sons operated out of Roches Street, while their rival company O’Mara’s operated across the road on the same street from 1839. Mattersons was established in 1816 by John Russell and J Matterson.

The Matterson brand of Sausages now travel all the way from the new recipe owners, Mallonfoods from  Co.Monaghan. That’s Globalisation for you. I buy my Mattersons sausages in a Supermarket on the spot where they were manufactures a good 40+ years ago but they now travel a bit to get home. Just like all our returning emigrants, home for Christmas.

Just back from a run to the village…. Mayhem, traffic jams and full car parks. Is there a major weather alert I should know about? Oh! It’s just the Christmas madness, and we have Christmas Eve tomorrow. (as well as two Christmas Eve birthday’s in our extended family, Happy Birthday Mary and Mike)

More to follow.




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2 responses to “To Brine or Not to Brine (2014 Christmas Diary #2)

  1. Liam Higgins

    Loving the diary. Went to school on Everygreen road. In Turnners Cross. CORK. Got locked in once a week every time the pigs made a run for it from the slaughterhouse next to the school. Takes me back. Keep it going.

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