If you are interested in heritage Irish food, be sure to visit Limerick Milk Market on a Saturday morning. Artisan duck pate covered with yellow fat, crubeens (fried pig trotters), elderberry and quince preserves, Irish brown breads, farmhouse cheeses, and other such traditional delicacies are all on display here.
First stop is Peter Ward's "Country Choice" with its full to overflowing deli cases. Buy some of Peter's fresh baked ham, beef tongue, or homemade pork belly to take home. Or get a sandwich to eat here. This is a satellite of Peter's original and justly famous Country Choice store in Nenaugh.
Peter Ward directed me to another stall in the Milk Market with the widest selection of exotic farmed and foraged mushrooms I've seen in Ireland.
The market is also open on Friday afternoon and again on Sunday at brunch time--but the main event is Saturday morning.
The market is located under the largest fixed tent in Ireland. Thanks to the shelter provided by the canvas, the vendors are there rain or shine.
This is not a Farmers Market, though fresh produce is available. It's a permanent market space with dozens of vendors selling everything from hot pepper chutney to flowers and shrubs.
More vendors set up outside the market on adjacent streets.
The history of the Milk Market goes back to the 1850s, when the city of Limerick decided to consolidate The Butter Market, The Pig Market, The Corn Market, The Hay Market and other collections of local vendors spread around the city into one centrally located market.
The scheme worked well for many decades. Then times changed. The production of bacon and butter became centralized in far away towns, and the Milk Market changed as well, becoming a weekly marketplace for bakers, butchers, farmers, and cheesemakers from around the region.
There is a display of old photos in the main hall showing the Milk Market in its various eras. In the 1950s, the Milk Market had already been a Limerick tradition for a hundred years.
In the early 2000s, the city began planning an ambitious renovation of the Milk Market. They hoped to capitalize on the growing interest in local food and Farmers Markets across Ireland.
In June 2010, the current Limerick Milk Market was unveiled--it's been a huge hit with food lovers, tourists and quality vendors ever since.