Food awards season has arrived and there has been great excitement in the food industry this week with the announcement of the Great Taste Awards.

The competition is always tough with over 14,000 products from 108 countries put to the test, judged by some of the best food critics, chefs, restaurateurs, producers and food writers in the industry.

This year, there were 86 socially distanced judging days where each product is stripped of its packaging and assessed according to its texture, appearance, composition and of course, taste.

Once again, Irish products shone. Out of the 5,383 products that received an accolade, 592 of them were Irish, 377 accolades in the Republic and 215 in Northern Ireland (NI).

Great Taste is awarded by one, two or three stars and it is the three stars that everyone is vying for.

Irish meat takes home the bacon

Former Supreme Champion James Whelan Butchers took home a three-star accolade for quite a novel product, the Slow Braised Shortrib from the company’s new dine at home range. Speaking about the accolade, Pat Whelan, fifth-generation farmer and butcher and CEO of James Whelan Butchers said: “This dish reflects our philosophy towards great food. It’s honest, simple, handmade from scratch every day where you can taste the love, care and attention that has gone into every single bite.

“For the dish to be recognised in this way is testament to the vision of our team, adding a new and timely product offering by creating restaurant quality food for our customers to enjoy at home.”

Apple of their eye

There was also great excitement in Limerick at Attyflin Estate as it also got three stars for its Irish Rosette Apple Juice. Run by husband-and-wife team, Brian and Bridget O’Connell, Brian says: “The award is in recognition of the hard-work and dedication of the team here at Attyflin Estate and the realisation of our ambitions to create a premium Rosette Apple juice. We’ve spent many years visiting some of the best fruit growing regions in Europe to marry best practice with our Irish farming heritage to create quality fruit drinks which are world-class.”

Worthy winners

Other notable winners include Ballyhoura Apple Farm’s Glazing Syrup, an apple-based syrup made in Kilfinane, Limerick; Carlingford Oyster Company’s Louet Feisser Select Carlingford Oysters and Wexford Home Preserves.

Interestingly, our nation’s love of coffee and the subsequent commitment to quality saw four companies take home three stars-Green Bean Coffee Roasters in Louth; Java the Hut from Dublin; Pure Roast Coffee in Lisburn and Velo Coffee from Cork.

NI success

In NI, Peter Hannan from Hannan Meats was celebrating Great Taste success once again as the former Supreme Champion took home three stars for their Sugar Pit Bacon Rack – a French trimmed pork loin traditionally hand cured and sweetened with a blend of three sugars.

It was the award-winning Murley Mountain Rack of Lamb that achieved success for Lisdergan Butchery in Tyrone while Rooney Fish in Newry took home the coveted prize for their Millbay Oysters.

Anticipation builds now as all Great Taste three-star award-winning products will be re-judged to find this year’s regional Golden Fork Trophy winners and the ultimate prize, the Great Taste Supreme Champion 2021. This is an accolade that has had much Irish success with previous winners including the Smokin’ Butcher in Co Meath (2017); Hannan Meats from Co Down (2016); James Whelan Butcher from Tipperary (2015); and McCartney's of Moira also from Co Down (2011).

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