Northern Ireland's first chorizo adds spice to country life for Limavady man Alastair
TV chef Jamie Oliver caused a stir among Spanish chefs by including it in his recipe for paella. But chorizo controversies haven't stopped Co Londonderry pig farmer Alastair Crown making his own at his farm in Limavady.
The computing graduate started making the traditional Spanish sausage product in February - and just two months later his business Corndale Farm had struck a deal to supply a Londonderry restaurant.
Alastair (29) has struggled to keep up with demand working from home, and with the help of his family has just invested £8,500 to import a curing oven from Italy. And he has moved production to a new industrial premises just a few miles from the farm.
And this week he hopes to launch his latest product - a salami.
His father Eric ran a small commercial beef herd along with some sheep in Limavady but Alastair says he never took any interest in farming until after he returned from studying computing in Glasgow.
"I wanted to rear free range, rare breed pigs - it was only supposed to be for the freezer," he said. "I started with four saddleback pigs in 2012 and then I fell in love with the whole thing and it took off from there. I started to breed them and then I realised we had a lot of pigs and needed to do something with them."
Alastair went on to teach himself basic butchery. He then started to make up freezer boxes with pork chops, sausages and bacon and found a market for free-range pork and now keeps around 60 pigs to keep up with demand.
The venture into chorizo has been a recent project. "I thought to myself, we have a lot of good bacon and sausages here but no one's doing charcuterie here and I decided to give it a go because it was something a bit different," he said.
Alastair taught himself how to make the chorizo, with the first batch made in a pot in his kitchen - but unlike learning butchery it wasn't plain sailing and early mistakes proved costly.
"Butchery is relatively straightforward but there's a lot going on in curing.
"Charcuterie is more of an art - you have to balance between good bacteria, bad bacteria and temperature and be able to control all that as well.
"When it goes wrong and a batch is destroyed it could have been up to 100 kilos going to waste at a time. But I have a process in place now and my own recipe which works."
He developed his own recipe through trial and error - adjusting spices such as paprika along with garlic and fat until he got the flavour he wanted.
Just two months after he started, a chance meeting with a Londonderry chef on the look-out for Northern Ireland ingredients gave him the opportunity to strike his first deal with a restaurant.
Now Corndale Farm chorizo can be found on the menus of Londonderry restaurants The Sooty Olive, Walled City Brewery and Entrada, as well as Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy, Ochos Tapas in Portrush and The Crannagh in Coleraine.
Belfast Telegraph Digital