Graham Roberts grew up among fish boxes. ‘At the age of four I used to wash out boxes for my father who gave me a penny a box,’ he recalls. Graham’s father worked as a fisherman on the West Coast of Ireland and in 1979 he established the Connemara Smokehouse. Its white toned building stands at the tip of a land spit. From here a scenic view can be seen of the Atlantic and the coastal area of Connemara.
Today the business is run by Graham and his family, the second generation.
‘Excuse me, where is Mühlemann’s farm?’ I asked a man tending his garden. ‘Which Mühlemanns are you looking for?’ he questioned. ‘The ones with the Wagyu beef,’ I answered. ‘Ah those ones,’ the man replied and gave me directions. Thomas Mühlemann’s farm is well known in the region. He belongs to just a handful of Swiss farmers who breed and market Wagyu cattle.
The beef from these cattle which originally come from the Kobe region in Japan is considered worldwide to be an exclusive food source. The speciality being that the muscles in the meat have thin specks of fat running through them. This marbling is a characteristic of the physical appearance of the meat tissue.
For a moment Frank Pfau is completely submerged in smoke. A few seconds later he reappears and can be seen pinching the ham hanging in the smoking chamber. ‘I check their consistency every day,’ explains Frank. During the smoking phase the pieces of meat lose up to 30 per cent of their water content. This loss of liquid and smoking of the cured ham allows it not only to be kept longer, but also it builds the basis for the incomparable taste. While Frank proceeds with his daily check he explains the difference between how smoked ham is produced using traditional homemade methods compared to those used in industrial production.