Cheeses from Ireland

St. Patrick’s day is around the corner, so I think it is timely for us to explore cheeses from Ireland. Cheesemaking is a long time tradition in Ireland. Cheese has been made there since Celtic times. However, it quite hard to believe that it was not until the 1970s that Ireland became known for farmhouse cheese making. Around that time there is evidence of Irish appreciation for a homegrown product. It is the green grass of Ireland that contributes to the character of Irish superior-quality dairy products.

So we can say that Irish Cheesemaking is a relatively young industry. Some centuries ago, economic factors dictated that most dairy production in Ireland be focused on milk and butter. By the 1900s most of Irish Cheese production came from large manufacturers whose main focus was the Cheddar type of cheese. Today, Ireland is ninth in cheese exportation globally.

Thanks to the naturally rich and lush pastures of Ireland, Irish Cheese contains a much higher level of beta-carotene, which gives their cheddars and other cow’s milk cheeses a natural yellow color. It is known now that farmhouse cheeses made in Ireland are of high quality and unique to each farm due to the dedication of the families that produce them. Irish farmhouse cheese producers typically rely on milk from a single herd, either theirs or that of a neighbor or nearby supplier. Because of this, they’re dealing with variation depending on the time of year. The milk isn’t standardized or homogenized as it would be for a large-scale producer, says Laura Berhaut. In other words, this is the only way small producers make cheese and no other way.

I have to admit though, it is very hard to find interesting artisan farmhouse Irish cheeses in the United States. “The US is a market complete with layers that do not exist elsewhere such as brokers who act between distributors and retailers. This means a much longer supply chain, so cheeses need to have a good shelf life.” says Sarah Furno, daughter of the founders of Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers. It is not hard to see that more delicate cheeses such as soft-ripened and washed-rind (stinky) are not available in many US markets due to this longer supply chain. The FDA periodically issues directives to U.S. Customs and Border Control called import alerts. Customs agents place cheeses under quarantine sometimes until they die and cannot be sold, based on concerns and suspicion arising from tests for pasteurization and adulteration, stated Max McCalman.

By the way, Cashel is a family-run Irish cheese business that was set up on a farm producing one of the best blue cheeses in the world – Cashel Blue. Along with Oscar Wilde aged Cheddar Cheese, Porter Cheddar and Whiskey Cheddar from Cahill, these can be the best quartet for your St. Patty Cheese tray-all available at Reverie Creamery.

Oscar Wilde Irish Cheddar: it has rich, sharp and strong flavors that bring home the essence of the lush, clean and pure Irish countryside. Ireland’s lush pastures give Irish Cheddar its signature yellow color, as this grass yields a beta-carotene rich milk.

Cashel Blue: The first Irish blue cheese, is modeled after French Fourme d’Ambert. A semi-soft farmhouse cheese, this award-winning cow’s milk product is made on the Grubb family’s Beechmount Farm in Tipperary Ireland. This creamy tangy Irish Cheese has a pale buttery interior streaked with blue veins. Cashel Blue is wonderful in leafy green salads, with fresh fruit. Add honeycomb for great flavor and texture contrast.

Cahill’s Farm Cheddar with Porter and Whiskey: This unique handmade Irish Cheese starts life as a tangy Irish cheddar, which is chopped into bits before aging, blended with a flavoring such as Porter Ale and Irish Whiskey, then hooped, lightly pressed and aged to perfection. Cahill’s Farm Cheddar has a veined appearance due to this production method.. This vegetarian Irish Cheese makes a stunning presentation on cheese platter.

Other popular and good Irish cheeses that are available in many supermarkets are: Dubliner and Skellig by Kerrigold. Hopefully one day, Reverie can bring other interesting Irish cheeses with these sexy names such as: Adrahan, Coolea, Kilree Gold, Wicklow Bán, Macroom Buffalo Ricotta, St. Tola Ash Log, Durrus, Crozier Blue, Diliskus, Boilie, Carrigaline Blueberry, Gubbeen, Sheridans 15 Fields Cheddar…ah the world of Irish Cheeses!

Published at Lakeside Ledger, March 2018