Ireland: Lush Land of Cheeses

With St. Patrick’s day only a few days away, we wanted to put the spotlight on some of our favorite Irish cheeses! Irish cheesemaking is relatively young to the world, unlike the ancient practices of France and Italy. But that certainly doesn’t make them any less delicious – Ireland had a vast history of buttermaking, so dairies were already up and running before the cheese started flowing. In fact, Ireland’s lush and rich pastures make it the perfect place to milk cows and create rich, grassy cheeses. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites, ready for you to devour just in time for St. Paddy’s Day! 

15 Fields Irish Cheddar

The Lonergan Family farm, in the heart of Ireland, is made up of 15 expansive fields on which their cattle graze. With fresh grass from April to October, the raw cow’s milk is cheddared and wrapped in a traditional cloth binding. After almost a year of aging, the 15 Fields cheddar still retains that sweet grass notes in its compact, smooth paste. More intense notes of nuttiness and bold meatiness grow the closer you get to the rind, balancing out that delightful sweetness and acidity. A true farmhouse cheese from the Emerald Isle, enjoy with a farmhouse ale.

Grubb Family Cashel Blue

You know the story already, about how the Grubb family was kicked out of England 300 years ago for religious differences. The Grubbs made their new home in County Tipperary, Ireland, taking up millering and buttermaking. To this day, Louis and Jane still keep the family’s dairy traditions alive. In the mid 1980’s, they developed the first Irish Blue, nurtured and exported by Neal’s Yard Dairy. Cashel is made with the milk of the Grubbs’ 110 Friesian cows, pasteurized, and ripened for two and up to six months. It maintains a unique, voluptuous, creamy texture with a minerally undertone complemented by a delightful, mild blue tang. The best cheeses are made from April to October when the cows are out to pasture – and hey, what do you know? That’s which wheels we order!

Murray’s Irish Cheddar

This is one of those cheeses that totally tastes like the place it comes from (hint: it’s called terroir!) Cow’s milk picks up a sunny pigment from the lush pastures growing in southeast Ireland’s temperate climes, known as the “Garden of Ireland.” Buttery and grassy, with sweet and fruity flavors, and kept moist with an ever-so-Irish green wax. Slice it for sandwiches, melt it on noodles, or munch it with pickles – honestly, whatever you decide to do with it will be delicious. The perfect creamy pal for a mug of stout or Irish Whiskey. Like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but better (because it’s cheese)!

Make Whey For… Cashel Blue!

It’s a week until St. Paddy’s Day, and in case you couldn’t tell from our website, we are excited! We wanted to kick off the festivities by introducing one of our favorite Irish cheeses – Cashel Blue! But in order to do that, we’re going to have to dive into the history of Ireland just a little bit. 

Political differences usually don’t lead to good things, but it did lead to this fantastic cheese. 300 years ago, the Grubb Family got booted out of England, and retreated to County Tipperary in Ireland. It wasn’t ideal but they made a great life out of it, turning to milling and buttermaking with a herd of 110 Friesian cows. In the past, Ireland had been limited in its cheese production due to the overwhelming export of Irish butter. Irish butter is as highly valued as the pot at the end of the rainbow – golden, grass-fed, sweet and rich. The best part about selling butter was that it didn’t require any aging, so the farmer’s profits could be collected immediately.

It wasn’t until the mid 1980’s that they began to develop what would become Ireland’s first blue cheese – Cashel Blue. It was adopted by Neal’s Yard Dairy, cheese affineur-extraordinaires, who saw something special in Cashel’s sapphire blue veins.

And we have to agree! It might be the first Irish Blue, but we think it’s the best. This blue is voluptuous and creamy, the sort of thing that is fudgy but just happens to melt in your mouth. Each bite reveals a minerally undertone, which compliments the mild, approachable blue tang of the veins. The cheese is made from April to October, and for good reason – this is when the cows are out to pasture, and there milk is full of grassy, herbal notes. Southern Ireland, where the Grubbs settled, is perfect for cheesemaking from the lush green pastures to the boggy, nutrient rich earth.

Want to know more about some of Ireland’s best cheeses and treats? Check back here next week for a full outline of our fave Irish treats!

Victory Never Tasted So Cheesy!

It’s official! Murray’s cheeses are winners, simple as that. Murray’s, in collaboration with some of the country’s best cheese makers, is proud to take home even more recognition for our original creations! This week, four of our Cavemaster Reserve cheeses took home awards at the annual United States Championship Cheese Contest held in Green Bay, Wisconsin. While we know that our cheeses are delicious, it’s amazing to see our cheesy creations stack up with some of the best in the country!

Hudson Flower

A collaboration with Old Chatham Sheepherding Company of Old Chatham, NY, earned Best of Class honors in the Flavored Soft & Semi-Soft Sheep’s Milk Cheese category, and for good reason! An American twist on a Corsican classic, Hudson Flower is made by Old Chatham, then sent to NYC where it is dressed in a secret blend of rosemary, lemon, thyme, marjoram, elderberries, and hop flowers before taking a rest in Murray’s state-of-the-art caves. Celebrate Murray’s win with a glass of champagne, some dried apricots, and a wheel of this floral wonder.

Greensward

Created by Murray’s Cheese and Jasper Hill Farm of Greensboro, VT, Greensward earned the Second Award in the Smear Ripened Soft Cheese category. Greensward also was recognized as the #1 Soft-Ripened Washed Rind Cheese and 3rd overall Best of Show by the American Cheese Society in 2016 – meaning there were plenty of stinky cheese in attendance, but Greensward beat almost all! So this creamy, bacony stunner is clearly not a competitor to be overlooked. Recreate Greensward’s best moments with a few slices of speck and a jar of cornichons.

Barden Blue

Made with Consider Bardwell of Vermont, this big blue earned Third Award for Blue Veined Cheeses with Exterior Molding. This cow’s milk classic is mellow, grassy, and perfectly aged by our Caves team. Think of it like lying in a fresh green pasture in the middle of spring – it’s really that good. The judges saw Barden as that versatile blue you’ve been dying to try – you could have it with some robust, herbal pancetta or a bar of bitter, bold dark chocolate. Either way, you’re going to love it.

Cornelia

A natural-rind cheese developed by Point Reyes Farmstead Co., Cornelia was recognized Fourth Overall in the Smear Ripened Semi-Soft cheese category. Needless to say, we’re pretty proud of our girl! She boasts a sophisticated palate of roasted peanuts and fresh milk. She’s our favorite during the summertime, simultaneously reminding us of picnics in the park and baseball games with the family.

You Spilled Beer on My Cheese

It’s like we always say: beer and cheese were just meant to be. There’s nothing like pouring a frosty pint of beer to go along with your cheese plate. But what about enjoying beer with your cheese another way? It’s actually not as groundbreaking as you’d think! Actually, beer and cheese have gone together for centuries, and people have been washing cheese in beer for all that time.

We have to, first things first, thank the Trappist Monks who believed you should live by the work of your hands. So, obviously, they started brewing beer. Like the smart guys they were, they realized that not only was this a tasty drink, but it could add a little something extra to the cheeses they’d been aging to feed their fellow monks. The story goes that they accidentally spilled some beer into their brine during a hard shift, but we like to think of them as the first generation of food scientists – experimenting until something fruity and funky came out.

So why are beer washed rind cheeses just oh so much better? Well it’s because the B. linens (that’s the stinky orange mold that kind of smells like feet but tastes super meaty) help remove the the acidic notes of the beer, leaving behind fruity or nutty notes that we all love. The resulting cheeses end up beefy and complex, with a distinct funkiness that permeates from the outside in. As it so happens, this tradition is one of our favorites – we love the stinkers that pair so great with a handful of nuts and beer. Here’s some of our boozy favorites:

The Other Stephen

These little guys start out as mild mannered triple creams (known as St. Stephen from Four Fat Fowl), but he definitely isn’t as much a saint after he’s washed in a bath of Short, Dark & Handsome Stout from Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn. Suddenly he’s less of a saint and more of a devil – a bit rowdy around the rind that imparts deep flavors of roasted coffee beans and dark chocolate (we’re talking that 70+% cacao stuff). But with that creamy paste, it all comes together to make a dreamy little wheel of cheese.

Good Thunder

Created by a finance guy turned cheesemaker, we think Keith Adams was thinking about happy hour when he crafted Good Thunder. Based on classic recipes – we’re talking  monk washed cheeses like Pont l’Eveque and Reblochon – our boy Keith washes this creamy cheese in a local Minnesota craft beer known as Surly Bender. It’s a great name, and it helps make a great cheese with notes of funkiness, porkiness, and smooth cream flavor. The epitome of a work hard, play hard cheese.

Greensward

A Murray’s exclusive that we’ve made extra boozy. This Vacherin Mont d’Or-inspired cheese is washed in an experimental brew of Virtue Cider, which helps create a big and bacony flavor without a hint of bitterness. Honestly, it’s so luscious and creamy that you could use it as a miniature fondue. Foresty and meaty, this is a unique spin on a classic inspired cheese. Very New York, by way of Vermont and the Alps.

How Does Your Cheese Melt?

We love the ooey-gooey – that melty delight that is fondue, grilled cheese, and everything in-between. But in your own cheesy experimentation you’ve probably noticed how some cheeses just aren’t as up to turning melty as others. It doesn’t mean we love them any less (I mean, who doesn’t love that crispy crust of Parmesan on a Chicken Parm?) but we know they’re just different. Have you ever wondered why? Don’t worry, we’re here to break it down for you, Cheesers.

First things first, it’s all about the fat! The fat and water ration in cheese determines how it is going to melt. So something that is higher in moisture is usually going to be a better melter than a drier alternative. That’s because the protein structure (which is what keeps the water and fat separated) is looser in high moisture cheeses, and very rigid in dry ones. 

So when heat is applied to most cheeses, the fat globules change from solid to liquid, which is when it starts getting that ooey gooey consistency. The protein structure loosens its grip under the heat, and the cheese begins to flow like a thick liquid rather than a solid – think of dripping, delightful fondue, and you’ll have the right idea in your head!

This is why age isn’t just a number when it comes to melting cheese – the age actually means a lot! Freshly made cheeses don’t have that maturity level yet, with their proteins tightly wound up. As they gain a little bit more time, the proteins loosen up, and create a more open matrix (think of it as a net that holds all the water and fat). That matrix is flexible, which is why they melt smoothly and don’t break. But if it ages too much, those proteins tighten up into tough clumps – that’s where that crispy cheese comes in.

So the best melters are a combo of age and moisture – Emmentaler, Gruyere, Comte, they are all well aged, with a flexible protein net. Their high moisture helps separate the proteins without breaking them completely, which allows them to flow into stringy, ooey-gooey meltiness. It totally makes your mouth water just thinking about it, right? Science is so much funner when it’s delicious.

You can hit up some of our favorite melters and get started on your own grilled cheese, fondue, and other cheesy experiments!