A Loin from Larne

Meat from its award-winning sausages goes into Northern Irish butcher McKeens' signature added-value product, Stuffed Pork Loin.

Using locally reared pork, processed by Fred C Robinson of Ballyclare, the long-established shop in Larne town centre sells between 25 and 30 stuffed loins weekly at an affordable 2.20/lb (4.89/kg).

McKeens has won a string of awards for its sausages and black and white puddings, all of which are produced on site. The shop was awarded second place in the Ulster Pork & Bacon Forum's National Sausage Competition 2010 last month (November), having lifted the top accolade the previous year.

The stuffed loin proves particularly popular with women shoppers looking for a family meal solution. "It's easy to cook, easily sliced and it's lean," says shop manager Hugh Hodge.

String is preferable to netting to hold the stuffed loin together, as netting tends to stick to the meat, he adds, while string offers the additional benefits of a firmer hold and easier slicing of the roll.

"Long and slow is always best," for cooking the loin, says Hugh. The loin should be roasted at 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8 for 10 minutes, and then reduced to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and cooked for 40-45 minutes per 450g plus an additional 35 minutes.

Other popular products in the shop include a speciality Pork and Chicken Sausage, which is very lean and low in fat, due to the inclusion of only chicken breast and trimmed pork. Three-bird roasts with pheasant, duck and chicken are, meanwhile, popular for dinner parties.

A butcher's shop has stood on the site since the 1890s, originally run by the Patton family and taken over by the McKeens around 60 years ago. Hugh has been with the shop for 40 years, back to his days as an apprentice butcher, and has been running it since Tom McKeen retired. He had his own smaller shop just outside the town centre Hodge & McKeen but a shop swap means Tom McKeen's son Ian now runs it, while Dean Hodge works alongside his father and two other full-time staff members in McKeens Butchers.

Larne town has a population of around 19,000 people, while the borough extends to just over 30,000. In comparison to similarly sized towns in Britain, it is home to a sizeable number of independent butchers' shops at eight but Hugh points out that, at one time, there would have been close to that number on his shop's street alone.

The opening of a large Asda store on the outskirts of Larne has had no discernible impact on trade; nor have purchasing habits changed much in the recession. The residents of Larne have always had an eye for a bargain and posters throughout the shop highlight offers.

While enjoying a brisk trade with the public, McKeens is also a major supplier into the catering trade.



Pork loin

Pork sausage meat



Salt & pepper