Deli, Food Artisans

Straight from Macroom, Ireland: ‘Tis Not Your Average Oatmeal

The oatmeal that we serve for breakfast and sell by the two pound tin is certainly one of our more unique offerings. Though standard commercial oatmeal is typically thought of as a common, unexceptional provision, the kind of oats we supply at the Deli (and at and the Roadhouse) has a story steeped in a tradition and quality that sets it apart from its duller brethren. To my knowledge we are one of the only purveyors of this delicious cereal in the United States, a fact that, I think, we too often forget.

Our oatmeal comes from Walton’s Mill in the town of Macroom, located between the cities of Cork and Killarney in the southwest of Ireland. It is exported to us directly via ship, rail, and truck straight to our door, four times a year. Opened by Richard Walton in 1832, the mill is now run by his descendant, Donal Creedon, and is the last remaining stone mill in Ireland. Oats are well adapted to the wet, cool climate of the British Isles and are a time-honored staple of sustenance. Mr. Creedon uses only organic and transitional (to organic) oats and visits the farms he buys from to hand select every bushel of oats he uses each season to ensure only the best are milled.

Stone grinding is a traditional method of processing grains that has been practiced for many centuries. Unlike the more common industrial method of “rolling” oats, which steams and then flattens them to extend shelf life and quicken cook time, stone grinding actually involves cutting the oats, yielding a meal that is darker in hue, due to its retention of flavorful natural oils, and coarse in texture. Before the oats are milled they are first toasted over moderate heat for two days to bring out a delicate and distinct taste and aroma.

Stone ground oats demand a more patient cook then their rolled second cousins. If you are looking for a quick bite before you rush out the door in the morning, these oats might not be the breakfast for you (though soaking them overnight does cut down on the cook time). Whereas rolled oats and their “quick” kin can be ready in under five minutes, stone ground oats take around 20 to 30 minutes to be ready for consumption.

Preparation begins by bringing four parts water (or milk) to a boil and then stirring in one part oatmeal. Be sure to reduce the heat to a simmer upon returning to a boil and stir thoroughly and often to avoid clumping and sticking. Once the oats are cooked through, and you have your desired consistency, a profusion of accompaniments await your selection. Some like it simple—just a pinch of salt and perhaps a little milk or cream. Others like to don their oaten porridge with a variety of nuts, fresh and/or dried fruit, and aromatic spices like cinnamon and sweeteners such as brown sugar, honey or maple syrup. I like mine with a splash of whole milk, sliced banana, toasted pecans and dried cranberries. Oatmeal can also be served in a savory fashion for a later meal, perhaps with a tab of farm butter, wilted greens, a good cheddar and a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. However you may fancy it, our oatmeal is a great wintry meal for anytime of day.

At the Deli and Roadhouse, we serve ours topped with Muscovado sugar and a side of milk (or cream upon request) every morning from 7:00 am – 11:00 am. Come try some! You won’t believe how good it is.