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Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland- A Must for Every Cheese Lover!

Legend has it that it was the nomadic tribes of Central Asia, who carried milk in animal-skin bags, that discovered cheese. They carried milk in saddlebags made from animal skins, possibly made from the stomach, which contains the coagulating enzyme known as rennin, which would cause the milk to curdle.

Earthernware bowls were used to strain the curds from the whey to make cheese
The galloping motion of the horse, acting as churning, would effectively separate the milk into curds. The result, curds and whey, provided a refreshing whey drink as well as the solids which would be drained through perforated earthenware bowls or woven reed baskets and lightly salted to provide a tasty and nourishing high protein food.

Goats milk Cheese is becoming very popular and considered beneficial for health
Most scholars of food would agree that the art of cheese making travelled from Asia to Europe, where it flourished in the hands of the Romans, who spread the art throughout the Roman Empire—all the way north to England and eventually finding its way to Ireland. During the Middle Ages cheese was made, variations developed and improved in the monasteries of Europe and it was there, I believe, that the original skills for the modern Irish cheese industry were honed.

Galtee Cheese - still popular all over the world
In the 1970’s there were two types of cheese in Ireland: ordinary cheese (cheddar) and ‘smelly cheese’ from abroad! Some relations of my mother's (that lived in Bantry and had started taking the new ferry service to Roscoff in France for a week’s holidays) introduced us to this smelly cheese, which I as a young boy then, was at first more than a little wary off! 

Cheese Fondue was very popular in the 70's & 80's
My mother, being quite an adventurous cook, made fondues out of it. She took a recipe from the Woman’s Weekly, adapted it to suit our means and we dipped crusts of homemade soda-bread into it. I have never looked back!

How wonderful then it was for me to have a new and concise encyclopaedia of Irish cheese and cheese-makers arrive in my post a few weeks ago. Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland – A Celebration is published by those bastions of unique and indigenous Irish publications, The Collins Press. From Ardagh Castle Goats cheese, Bellingham Blue & Carlow Edam to Yeats Country Organic soft cheese, they are all there in their full-fat and full-bodied glory!

"Farmhouse Cheese of Ireland - A Celebration" is in the shops now!
The book is a guide to the Irish farmhouse cheese industry, its history and where it’s at now, including lavish photography, in-depth portraits of the individuals involved, and a comprehensive tasting guide to the cheeses. The author Glynn Anderson & photographer John McLaughlin have shown themselves to be true and passionate about this wonderful thing that is Cheese.

Ardrahan Cheese is one of our best-established artisan cheeses
Their in-depth attention to the details of the characters involved in the making of Irish Cheese shines through on every page and tells a truth about the cheese manufacturing business in Ireland today. Each artisan cheese discussed is a reflection of the people that make it.

Cashel Blue was first launched in Ireland in 1984
Each cheese is described in detail, its characteristics such as colour, texture, aroma and flavour. Cheese facts are presented with easy-to-read icons indicating the species or breed of animal milked. It explains whether the milk is raw or pasteurised, if traditional or vegetarian rennet is used, and whether the cheese is produced under organic principles or not.

Kate Carmody of Béal Organic Cheese
Other information includes the history of cheesemaking in Ireland, how cheese is made and best conserved, and resources for cheese lovers with contacts and on-line links. A fascinating read!

David Tiernan of Glebe Brethan Cheese
There are almost sixty registered artisan cheese producers in Ireland and they, by their nature, are small operations but are producing nearly two hundred distinct artisanal cheeses. The economies of scale do have an adverse affect on the price of the product but this does not seem to be hindering the growth of the artisan cheese industry in Ireland.

Durrus Farmhouse led the renaissance for cheese producers in the 1980's 
With over 1,000 tonnes of farmhouse cheeses being exported each year and with the rise of Farmer’s Markets as a direct point of sale to customers, things are looking bright for the future of locally made, grass fed, artisan produced Irish farmhouse cheese!

Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland – A Celebration by Glynn Anderson & John McLaughlin
Published by The Collins Press - RRP: €24.99 - ISBN: 9781848891210

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