On the edge of County Fermanagh's Upper Lough Erne you’ll see many things. You’ll see swans glide through the water, dense forests surrounding the lough, and you’ll also see a collection of islands. Among those islands, you will find a Hare Krishna Centre (Inish Rath Island); mysterious ancient carvings on the ruins of an old church (White Island); and an early Christian monastic site once subjected to Viking raids (Devenish Island).
On Inishcorkish Island you will find a herd of rare breed pigs living here. They roam free in the natural environment on the island and feed on the grasses and herbs that grow there. The man responsible for “Pig Island” is Pat O’Doherty, who is passionate about the concept of “happy pigs”.
As far as work commutes go, this is one of the best we can think of. Along his way to visit his black pig herds on Inishcorkish, Pat is alone with rippling water, a swan or two and Lough Erne’s serene silence.
This is the image of the local, free-range producer that inspires chefs around the world. But it’s not only chefs who want to cook with produce that has been raised by small-scale producers like Pat. Food lovers want to enjoy it, too.
Bottom line: as far as grass-fed, farm-to-table quality goes, bacon from pigs reared on their very own island ticks all the boxes.
After providing such paternal care and intimate attention, does Pat get close to the herd?
"I become very attached to the pigs," Pat says. "I travel to the island each night to give them little snacks and check on their well-being. I’m fascinated by the way they interact with nature and each other."
But Pat’s care and dedication isn’t just noticeable in the behaviour of these very happy and well-tended pigs. As his recipe below confirms, it’s evident in the taste, too.
Derrylin soda farl sandwiches with Black Bacon
- 450g/1lb plain white flour
- 150g/5oz self-raising flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 25g/1oz butter
- 568ml/1pt approx. buttermilk
- Flour for dusting
For the salsa
- 4 vine tomatoes,deseeded and diced
- 2 shallots (spring onions), finely diced
½ cucumber, deseeded and finely diced
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper for seasoning
12-16 rashers of Black Bacon