Bunratty Castle Pork Ribs

Ciaran Ganter and Susan sample the famous pork ribs at Bunratty Castle in Ireland. Photo by Veronica Hill

Ciaran Ganter and Susan sample the famous pork ribs at Bunratty Castle in Ireland. Photo by Veronica Hill

If you ever have the good fortune to travel to Ireland, one of the most popular attractions is the medieval banquet held at Bunratty Castle in County Clare. These lively evenings are an excellent way to tour a restored 15th-century castle while enjoying a night of medieval food, reenactments, live music and dancing.

Here I am sampling the salted friendship bread at Bunratty Castle. This was in 1999! Photo by Veronica Hill

Here I am sampling the salted friendship bread at Bunratty Castle. This was in 1999! Photo by Veronica Hill

Overlooking the River Shannon, Bunratty (Bun Raite) Castle was once home to the O’Briens, Earls of Thomond, who controlled the castle between 1500 and 1640. The Great Earl, who died in 1624, was famous for his hospitality and entertained lavishly in the Great Hall, one of the castle’s grandest rooms. Today, it is beautifully restored to its original state, complete with 15th- to 17th-century furniture, tapestries and other fine objects.

The castle’s Main Guard room, once the soldiers’ dining and sleeping quarters, is now home to the grand four-course meal, offered by candlelight on rustic 15-foot-long wooden tables.

In the Middle Ages, diners used a dagger to eat their meal. Today’s guests are armed with a steak knife and colorful red bib.

The Bunratty Castle feast begins with a salted “friendship” bread (meant to stimulate the appetite) followed by a glass of warm mead, a sweet wine made from fermented honey, apple juice, clover and heather. 
In medieval times, a bottle of mead was offered to the bride and groom on their wedding day. The couple was expected to drink it each night for one full moon after the wedding, which is where the term “honeymoon” originated.

Mead was offered to protect the couple from fairies who might spirit the bride away. It was also believed to have magical powers of fertility and virility.

For those who can’t travel to the Emerald Isle, here is the Bunratty Castle Pork Ribs recipe, which is made with a honey whiskey sauce. Other items you’ll find on the Bunratty Castle menu include a delicious potato-leek soup, and a dessert called lover’s kiss, which is sponge cake with berries and cream. And while you won’t be able to duplicate the entertainment, you can play a CD of your favorite Baroque-style music and enjoy a mug of warm Bunratty Mead. Bunratty Mead is available in the United States through Camelot Importers at (800) 422-6356.

 

The duke personally serves me some of the famous pork ribs at Bunratty Castle. I'm not worthy! Photo by Veronica Hill

The Great Earl personally served me some of the famous pork ribs at Bunratty Castle. I’m not worthy! Photo by Veronica Hill

 

Bunratty Castle Recipes

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork spareribs
  • Honey Whiskey Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup Irish whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 lemon, juice of
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock or 4 cups canned chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup demi-glace or 1/2 cup condensed chicken broth

Instructions

  1. Cover ribs with cold water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer.
  2. Cook until fork tender, about 1 hour, skimming the water occasionally to remove the foam. Transfer to a large baking pan.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. To make the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic until soft, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in all the remaining ingredients except the demi-glace or concentrated chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Cook until the sauce reduces by half, 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Stir in the demi-glace. Pour half the sauce over the ribs and bake, turning once, until the ribs begin to brown, 30-40 minutes.
  8. Slice the meat into 4 or more ribs per person and serve with remaining sauce.
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