A Wee Bit O' Cheese
Whether creamy, bitter, tart, sweet, buttery, soft, pasteurized, or raw, cheese is both a comfort food and a delicacy, and as referenced in Homer’s Odyssey and the texts of Pythagoras, it’s been story-worthy for thousands of years. While French and Italian cheeses are the widest known and best revered, the world’s largest selection of cheeses is sourced from a somewhat unexpected place—Ireland. What’s more, Irish artisanal cheeses are as delectable as those exported from Parma or Lyon.
The Irish have a masterful cheese-making tradition thousands of years old. The Emerald Isle’s land is lush and welcoming, which makes it ideal for dairy production. As you might expect, that also trickles down to the country’s cheese production. Cows, sheep, and goats graze freely on those hills, and because the cheeses are pasteurized (not homogenized), each season’s batch will vary slightly.
By the mid-1970s, almost all cheese production in Ireland was of the large-scale variety and owned by dairy cooperatives. But a new breed of visionaries rose up to rekindle the country’s farmhouse cheese production. Today, there are more than 30 members of Cáis, the Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers Association, each one dedicated to infusing remarkable character into their creamy, pungent, or perfectly aged cheeses.
The Right Kind of Blues
Irish blue cheeses are unlike most other blues; their pungency is more salty-sweet than strong. Technically, Irish blues are mold infused, so they do offer that familiar blue-cheese bite, but they are also creamy and well balanced. For an unparalleled Irish blue, seek out Crozier Blue, a subtle sheep’s-milk cheese produced by Cashel Blue in the town of Tipperary. In fact, Crozier Blue is the only Irish blue cheese that is made from sheep’s milk.
Coming of Age
Rather than expressing the familiar trait of sharpness, Irish cheddar is typically softer and more delicate, though some reserve batches deliver stronger flavors. If you’re hankering for a cheese with a connection to Ireland’s history, we recommend Kerrygold’s vintage aged cheddar. The pasteurized cheese is made from grass-fed cow’s milk and is aged for one year, and it was first made by monks 13 centuries ago.
Soft and Supple
Goat cheese produced in Tipperary is carefully crafted in true artisan form. You can’t go wrong with Gortnamona, a Camembert-style cheese produced by Cooleeney Farm. The tall, soft, white cheese offers faint undertones of mushroom with just a touch of goat’s milk.