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Thursday, 17 September 2015

Dripping Reigns Supreme

How can a product as simple as Beef Dripping win the Supreme Champion Award at the Great Taste Awards?


The kind of thing you don’t really think of as a vital ingredient, we all use it for Roasties, to make the perfect Triple Cooked Chips, to power up the Yorkshires, but it’s still just dripping.


Until, that is, a master of his craft turns his attention to producing the best dripping possible.


Pat Whelan inherited the family butchers James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel as well as the family farms and set out to provide the finest meats to his customers. With his own farms, an abattoir and an expanding range of shops as well as a strong network of farmers and other butchers to discuss ideas with he is ideally placed so to do.


But it’s Pat’s philosophy of food that is the real driver to success. He loves his farms and animals and wants to produce the best meats by respecting the animals and seeking to use every part of the animal that he has lovingly reared.


You can read more of Pat’s philosophy and background in his two books, An Irish Butcher Shop and The Irish Beef Book, written with Katy McGuinness.


Beef Dripping is a taste of our childhood, sadly side-lined by the years of attack on real fats and promotion of assorted oils by governments largely in thrall to big agribusiness. High time for a real comeback and now there is a growing realisation that fats like Butter and Dripping are not harmful and are natural products unlike the so  called ‘Spreads’ and cooking aids. Let’s be honest here I would rather trust a cow than a chemist, and it’s not Fat it’s Flavour.


So how does one man raise dripping from everyday store cupboard ingredient to Award Winning status?


By working long and hard to ensure that the product is the best, over several years, trying, tasting and refining to make the ultimate dripping.

The Dripping comes from the Hereford Cattle that Pat farms in County Tipperary, famed for its meat quality the Hereford would produce great fat for dripping, and it’s not just a case of rendering fat to dripping. The fats are carefully chosen and blended to bring out the best taste. The fats around the Kidney –or Inner Fats as Pat calls them are skilfully blended with Outer Fats – those from the working muscle areas that we would see as the various cuts of meat. The result is a smooth dripping which imparts a lot of taste to whichever dish you are using it in. If ever there was a Beef Extract this is it not that brown stuff that you add water to for a drink at a football match. Perhaps a little steak finds its way into the render to add that beefy goodness?


Now for the very minor role that I played in the development.

A few years ago I was talking with Pat who told me that he wanted to revive Dripping which had gone out of favour, and he asked me whether butchers in the UK still sold it. Certainly in our area they did. “Can you find out how they package their dripping” I was asked.


My memories were of tall waxed packets which stood on shelves in the shops with the butchers name and a picture of a cow on them, so that’s what we wanted to find so that Pat could package a traditional food in a traditional package. Would you believe it? A new team of EHOs had persuaded our local butchers that they were much better off selling their dripping in sealable plastic pots! A mad dash round butchers in a 50 mile radius couldn’t produce one example of traditional packaging.

Luckily Pat is not the man to take this as a setback and he designed this own elegant package that reflects the past.


So released last year, Pat put his Dripping into The Great Taste Awards where it won 3 Stars, the maximum possible.

More research and development and the 2015 version was submitted and again won 3 stars. As a 3 star product it was re-tasted to see whether it should make the Top 50 and earn a place at the dinner which celebrates the finest products of the year.

Pat was duly invited and made his way to London for the meal alongside some great Irish producers and the cream of contestants.

Each entrant has a chance of winning The Golden Fork for their Region or Sector of the food business and Pat was delighted to win The Golden Fork for Best Irish Product.  “At that stage I decided to celebrate” he told me, “The tie was loosened and drink was taken”.

Minutes later he was called back to receive the overall Golden Fork as Supreme Champion 2015!

Food industry insiders like Charles Campion and William Sitwell loved it as you can see from the video links below


One amazing product that can change your whole cooking and bring so much flavour to every dish that uses it.

Where can you get it? Obviously in the Clonmel branch of James Whelan Butchers and from their branches in Avoca Ireland in Rathcoole, Monkstown and Kilmacanogue or online from

If you want this amazing Dripping in the UK you'll be heading for Harrods or Fortnum and Mason, the only stores to get their hands on this bovine ambrosia.

And as to the future ? Well, I might have heard a whisper about a very tasty Lard.
To Keep up with Pat and the team at James Whelan Butchers follow @Pat_Whelan and @JWButchers.


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