With St. Patrick’s Day being today and all, we here at Murray’s wanted to spend a little time giving love to our favorite flavors of the Emerald Isle. From boggy, mineral rich pastures to the lush, green fields of the southeast’s “Garden of Ireland”, the cheese of Ireland delight our dairy-loving hearts! Ireland has a bounty of delicious treasures to discover, and we’re ready to lead you on a tour of them.
The green wax this cheese comes in is not just for decoration – it reflects the those lush green fields that make the southeast of Ireland known as the “Garden of Ireland”. It’s more temperate from the other parts of the country, and leave the sunny pigment in the grass and in the cheese. The cheddars that come out of this region are buttery and grassy, with sweet and fruity flavors. The wax seals in the moisture of the cheese, making it sliceable and great for melting into sandwiches or with a pint of Guinness on the side (we really suggest you enjoy with the latter).
You know Cashel Blue – over the past few weeks, we’ve hardly stopped talking about it. And for good reason. This is the taste of traditional Irish cheesemaking, with its own unique twist. The Grubb family left England and brought their buttermaking and dairy business over to Ireland over some religious differences – that was over 300 years ago. The Grubb family got by with their buttermaking business for a bit of time, but it wasn’t until the mid-80s that they changed direction by creating Ireland’s first blue cheese. And oh, is it good. Voluptuous and creamy, with a minerally undertone, it is complemented by a delightful mild blue tang – an excellent beginner blue. They even get that grassiness that we love, since the cheese is made from milk when the cows are out to pasture.
Okay, to be fair, this is kind of cheating. Grazier’s Edge is an American classic, not an Irish one. But St. Patrick’s Day is just as popular here as it is over in Ireland (if not more so given the parade that is happening today here in New York). And this pungent delight from Minnesota does have a bit of an Irish twist. We like to think of it as the American version of Ardrahan – a stinky washed rind from Duhallow in the County Cork. Grazier’s Edge is washed in St. Paul’s own whiskey – 11 Wells Rye – which leaves the cheese strong, ye approachable with notes of creamed sweet corn and grass. If you’re going to enjoy this cheese, break open that nice bottle of Irish whiskey you’ve been saving.
We pair these three cheeses with citrusy Orange & Bourbon Marmalade (dollop heavily on top of that Cashel Blue, you’ll thank us later) and rustic Brown Bread Crackers. They make up the ultimate collection for celebrating a truly Irish St. Paddy’s Day – great for having people over or prepping for a long day of pub crawls and parades. We promise, you’ll be dancing an Irish jig when you’re done.
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!
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.
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!
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)!
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!
by Dan Belmont, Murray’s Cheese Education & Events Manager
Irish cuisine – what comes to mind? Pub food, Irish Breakfast (see: MEAT), shepherds pie, Guinness, heavy, rich foods, right? As I ate my way around County Cork, Ireland my preconceived notions were shattered in just three short days. Now – don’t get me wrong, the Irish Breakfast served at the Ballyvalone House was the perfect way to start the day (especially after a night of local gin cocktails) – four kinds of meat on one plate? YES PLEASE. However…
The “Emerald Isle” is a wildly appropriate moniker. Despite mainly overcast days, I still utilized sunglasses to shield my eyes from blinding bright green foliage and rolling pastures almost everywhere you looked. Its comes as no surprise that the Irish Government and OHRUA (formerly the Irish Dairy Board) is on a mission to grow the country’s agricultural sector significantly over the next decade. What they lack in natural gas or coal, they make up for ten-fold in beautiful lush grasses. And what do we know about amazing grass? Makes for very happy cows. Happy cows = delicious milk. Delicious milk yields incredible butter and cheeses and yogurt, etc., etc.. Ireland is poised (and very excited) to share this bounty with the world.
The unofficial theme for the weekend was LOCAL. We heard from Alice Waters (Ballymaloe LitFest Keynote Speaker) and her adventures opening Chez Panisse in Berkeley CA. in the late sixties. Tales of local growers trading fingerling potatoes for meals – long before anyone had heard of fingerling potatoes and now they’re a familiar staple on many a restaurant menu. The simple of idea of sourcing ONLY local ingredients started the farm to table revolution. Ms. Waters introduced gardening and cooking education to elementary schools that was based off a pilot program hosted at a penitentiary! The restaurant (still open today) was built on idyllic pure concepts, and a “This may not work, but let’s try it anyway.” attitude. Her spirit and accomplishments are admirable to say the least.
I did my part to embrace the local theme. Rather than Guinness, I opted for local Cork County Stout and drank Green Spot Pot Still as my whiskey of choice. (More on Whiskey later.) After a tour and butter making demonstration at the Cork Butter Museum (yes, that’s a thing)
we ventured out to West Cork where we met Clodagh McKenna – chef, cookbook author and TV personality – for a private garden party, complete with cooking demonstrations all using locally sourced ingredients from the nearby village. She’s essentially the Martha Stewart of Ireland (sans incarceration).
Take a look at this (HANDWRITTEN!) menu:
When you think of Irish Cuisine, do you picture this plate? Flower arrangement by yours truly!
At the end of our first day, I was convinced that the Irish are the just the nicest damn people in the world. The Green family welcomed us into their home at Ballyvalone and Clodaghwas convivial hospitality incarnate. Gracious doesn’t begin to describe it. It all became a very personal experience, I felt like family meeting long lost relatives. And dinner was divine.
We spent the next day visiting with the Grubb family at Cashel Blue Farm. The operation there was nothing short of impressive, with innovations at every turn. The warm curd, newly formed was light, fluffy and sweet on the palate – like the most delicate panna cotta you could ever imagine. The curd is then packed into moulds but not pressed to maintain a high moisture level, and ultimately less dense paste. The process is a mix of hands on labour and high-tech computerization. For all my cave apprentice alumni, check this out: With this simple “turn-key” design, you can rotate a dozen wheels at a time!
Flipping of the wheels was also automated, encouraging uniform density. The curd is not salted directly; rather the newly formed wheels are only brined encouraging that sweet creamy paste. After piercing, in just two short weeks the blue mold is activated and begins to work its magic from the center of the wheel.
The Grubb family only pressed upon me further the through-line of family and superb Irish hospitality. We were invited into their farmhouse for lunch. One of the family’s favorite recipes is a simple pizza of caramelized onions, rosemary and Cashel Blue. We were even shown the original copper kettle where Mrs. Grubb made the first batch of Cashel Blue!
The community assembled at the Ballymaloe House and Cookery School for the third annual Kerrygold Ballymaloe Food & Wine Lit Fest is nothing short of impressive. 10,000 guests descended upon the farm for a myriad of tastings, seminars, lectures, demonstrations, garden tours, and sheer indulgence on a smorgasbord of specialty food and drink offerings. The opening night festivities were ripe with merriment and revelry, bolstered by a sense of like-minded community. We were joined by fellow New Yorkers Garrett Oliver Brewer at Brooklyn Brewery, April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig fame, and a long list of internationally celebrated chefs, authors and wine and spirits experts. The festival host, Darina Allen buzzed around with youthful energy like a proud mother, facilitating introductions and bridging connections between attendees. Again, it just felt like a big family reunion.
What can I say? I like my whiskey. But as I have never been a big fan of Jameson, I was curious to see what the panel and tasting titled “Irish Whiskey Renaissance” had in store for me. Here’s the flight:
Color me impressed. The whiskeys were delicious, and unique, quaffs worthy of contemplation. The panel, comprised of two Irish distillers and a Scottish whiskey writer/expert was thoughtful and enthusiastic. Outlining the history of Irish distilling (thank you English taxation), differentiating between the pot and column still production methods, and looking ahead to what can only be described as, well, a renaissance, — but the number of new distilleries that will open their doors and their barrels over the next 5 years is incredible, the industry is exploding. Few had anticipated such a growth in global whiskey consumption, and the Irish are vying for their share of the market. If the five bottles we tasted are any indication of quality, I welcome increased availability in the states wholeheartedly.
The “Emerging Wine Regions” panel included popular wine writer Alice Feiring – known for her crusade against Robert Parker and the 100-point sale, among other passionate wine professionals showcased bottles from the Ukraine, (The Best Damn Wine Label I’ve Ever Seen), Greece and unheard of regions of Spain. I found it humorous that these ’emerging’ regions all have rich wine making histories – some thousands of years old. They may be just emerging on the international wine market radar, but they’re established in their history and wine making traditions. Enter a region like New York’s Finger Lakes region, which has only been producing vitis vinefera for 50 years!
Our visit to the festival culminated with the Kerrygold Gala Dinner at the Ballymaloe house. A lovely meal featuring potted lobster, roast lamb, the famed Ballymaloe dessert cart, and of course CHEESE. Speeches by Kevin Lane, OHRUA President and Simon Coveney, Irelands Minister of Agriculture set the tone for celebration by outlining recent successes (removing limitations on milk production, championing Ireland’s agricultural products abroad) and what lies ahead – increasing availability of food and agricultural education, sustainability, and growth of both production and economy.
Ireland is on the verge of a food renaissance, and I couldn’t be more excited to see it happen. While I did not spend any time in Dublin, and never stepped foot in a pub, it was an unforgettable visit. County Cork is a DO NOT MISS part of the country, and I hope to return again soon.
Oh… and we were told maybe 200 times over the course of the weekend – BUTTER IS GOOD FOR YOU. Spread it on!
While it might just be a really good excuse to get a little too drunk, St. Patrick’s day is also a great opportunity to eat some Irish cheese. Don’t worry, we’ve included several beer pairings to make sure you try some funky new curds… while pounding down the cold ones!
Pinch free! Wrapped in green wax, this cheese couldn’t be more perfect for St. Patty’s Day. Irish Cheddar is an excellent translation of pastoral Ireland. It’s bright and tangy, slightly sweet flavor profile is perfect for the aficionado, or the cheese beginner. We pair this classic cheddar with a classic beer; go for a hoppy, floral IPA. The complexity of these beers will go perfectly with this cheddar’s easy flavors and creamy finish.
Cows that graze on clover fields are simply destined to make fantastic Irish cheese. These wheels are funky! But remember, you can’t have funky without the letters f-u-n! The truth of the matter is that this cheese doesn’t just go well with beer, it craves it! We’d keep it local with the beers (it also goes really, really well with scotch and whiskey.) Try a Barleywine, or another traditional brew like Old Ale.
300 years in the cheese making biz means that you must be doing something right. Cashel is one of the most voluptuous and creamy blue’s we have ever laid our paws on. It’s not super poignant; like Stilton or Roquefort. This guy is much mellower and smoother, perfect for those who are just adventuring into blue cheeses. Celebrate this fantastic Irish blue with a fantastic Irish beer! Go for a dry Stout with a thick, creamy head.