Periwinkles

Mary Taylor with typical periwinkle stall with bicycle wheels.

The collecting and cooking and selling of periwinkles as street food, has been part of the heritage of Kilkee for generations. The periwinkle is a sea snail (Littorina littorea) which is very common on the rocky west Clare shore. A number of local families, going back generations, have collected, cooked and then sold this delicacy from stalls on the promenade in Kilkee.

Collection

Winkles, as they are known locally as, are collected in the intertidal zone on the rocks. The ‘pickers’ are usually members of the same extended family. They normally use a bucket and pick the winkles by hand one at a time which are then filled into sacks for transporting. It is back-breaking work.  When the fresh harvest is brought home they are then cooked.

Cooking

Brightly coloured modern periwinkle stall.

The BBC Food website recommends the following method of cooking fresh periwinkles:

Live winkles will need washing in lots of cold water then soaking in a little salted water for 30 minutes before boiling. Boiled in plenty of water, they take 3-4 minutes to cook. Once cooked, roll them in a little oil to make the shell glossy and serve with vinegar and salt (and a pin to extract the meat from the shell).

Locals boil the winkles in seawater with seaweed added. They claim that this gives more flavour. The winkle sellers then take the freshly cooked shell fish to their stalls on the Kilkee promenade.

Eating

Periwinkles with the pins necessary for eating.

Periwinkles are not as popular as they should be. It is unusual to see periwinkles on a seafood platter in a restaurant. The reason is, presumably, because while a prawn or mussel is a decent mouthful the winkle is so small and the time-consuming trouble of taking it out of it’s shell puts diners off. You need a straight pin to take the meat out of the shell. You first remove the tiny ‘cap’ or foot which protects the winkle from predators and the rest of the meat is edible. The nicest way to eat winkles is to buy a bag from one of the stalls and sit on the Kilkee seawall looking out at the activities in the bay.

Sea Vegetables

 The stall holders also sell dillisk, slack and carrageen which are very nutritious sea vegetables and can be eaten raw.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments about this page

  • Pauline,
    Thanks for your kind compliments. Apologies for delay in answering but I did not realise we were live.
    Our official launch was scheduled for 24th March but it has now been postponed.
    Looking forward to meeting you and your colleagues.
    Yours
    John Williams, Kilkee

    By John Williams (17/03/2020)
  • Your website looks fantastic! Welcome to the ICAN family, I’m sure, we in Milltown Heritage, Galway will be meeting you many times on your journey.

    I never heard of periwinkles before, I’m not so sure I’ll be trying them:) but they reminded me of a snail farmer up around our neck of the woods. He was recently on Ear to the Ground explaining how it works.

    I always take carrageen when I feel a cough coming on, it’s the only thing that cures it for me!!!

    I

    By Pauline, Milltown Heritage, Galway (06/03/2020)

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