'Willy Wonka of sausages' knighted by foodie order
HE has been dubbed the Willy Wonka of sausages.
Now, Donegal butcher Ernan McGettigan (55) and his brother Diarmuid have been 'knighted' by a French gourmet brotherhood after their humble banger spiced up with rather unusual ingredients tickled the tastebuds.
Chef Neven Maguire, who was also one of five Irish foodies yesterday honoured by the society on their visit to Ireland, described Ernan as "the Willy Wonka of sausages".
That's because his 25 different varieties of the traditional fare include a chilli, Belgian chocolate, and orange sausage.
The ceremony to honour the butchers saw French guardians of quality meat from the Commanderie des Fins Goustiers du Duche d'Alencon parade along the streets of Donegal town in their blue and yellow robes.
Then Diarmuid was given the Confrerie medal in an elaborate and somewhat surreal ceremony.
He placed his hand on a griddle, while a large brass fork was tapped on his shoulder, as he was called upon to swear allegiance to protect food in the Normandy region and made a chevalier, or knight.
Ernan travelled to France for a similarly elaborate ceremony late last year.
The group was founded in 1973 to "uphold" the quality of sausages and white puddings across Europe.
The McGettigan craft butchers were deemed Europe's top sausage makers with their hickory and maple banger, while their pork curry, banana and mango flavoured creation received a Grand Prix of Excellence.
"The humble sausage was never dead, it was just a little dormant for a time," Ernan said.
Some of the exotic bangers are priced at €4 for a pound, or around 12 sausages.
"The speciality side of things is a whole different ballgame," Ernan said.
"We've travelled so much now, the Irish, in particular, our tastebuds have developed and we have 25 different types in the shop. There is demand for all the different flavours."
However, all of the sausages are based upon the original pork butcher's sausage created by his father Michael (82) when he first opened the shop in Donegal in 1952.
Ernan explained there was no "secret ingredient" with all the traditional ingredients used by butchers such as white pepper, nutmeg and coriander thrown into the mix, but they may use "an extra little bit of something".
"I have these strange moments. The curry, banana and mango came from a chicken curry my wife makes," Ernan said.
"The chilli, chocolate and orange was a weird one. I use Belgian chocolate and orange chutney, the Mexicans use chocolate in chilli con carne.
"None of these work right away, it takes a bit of tweaking. Our guinea pigs are our loyal staff and customers.
"Every individual sausage recipe is individual to that shop, it is unique and never tastes the same in another shop," he said.
"We've had demand and queries from all over Ireland and a call from a speciality shop in Geneva," he explained.
Arising from the increased interest, the butchers' are now working with the Donegal County Enterprise Board to open a small manufacturing unit at their shop to package and label their unique sausages.