A long time ago, maybe in the early 90s, I went to an event that was all about Irish cheese. I expected to have a few Easi Singles and a slab of Calvita, as that was all we'd seen in Ireland at that point. Cheese was an anomaly, even cheddar hadn't emerged. Yet here were cheeses the like of which I'd only seen or heard of in Francophile circles. An oozy Cooleeney, is that... Camembert? Made here? Cashel Blue and on they went, cheese names that are now, thankfully part of our regular food vocabulary. Since then any cheese lover (cheeseophile?) will be so familiar with names like Durrus, Gubeen, Jane Murphy's Ardsallagh or Kate Carmody's Béal Organic Cheddar.
Smart farmers back in the 80s were faced with the insane option of throwing milk that exceeded their quotas down the toilet, or doing a course that would add value to their milk in the form of making cheese. Taking these opportunities has transformed the lives of farmers whose names are now out there as some of the most important food producers on the island. Jane Grubb had the smarts to create Cashel Blue from the recipe of the age old Danish Blue, and now a large part of their output is exported to where? Denmark. Their Crozier Blue is a silky smooth goats blue cheese. Irish cheese has taken a world stage and prospective makers of this fine food now come here to study its art.
The book, a glorious celebration by cheese lovers Glynn Anderson and John McLaughlin, is a cheese lovers bible, for the bedside. Cheese making in Ireland gets historical coverage. Cheesemakers are photographed with their beloved creations and profiled in their workplaces, amongst goats and vats and curds. The book is factual yet full of love, it goes from A to Z to make it easy to find info and wax lyrical about your favourite runny or semi hard foodstuffs. Names like Gabriel and Desmond show just how much their makers love them, to give them a Christian name.
On a recent trip to the world Slow Food Conference and a volunteer stint at the raw milk food stand it was easy to see what a magnificient reputation Irish cheeses have on a world stage. St.Tola from Co.Clare was being bought up by the log by eager Italian foodies while me and the boys from Bellingham Blue got busy handing out delicious samples and tasters.
Great to see a man I meet every Saturday at the Limerick Milk Market on these pages, Peter Nibbering has been making his raw milk goudas in Kilshanny, Co. Clare since 1989. Raw milk from the neighbouring farmers Fresian cows is used to make a plain, nettle, green pepper and my favourire, Cumin Gouda.
Peter Nibbering, pic by me
This book is must have for any lover of Irish Food, and how far we've come as a food producing nation, and how much further we can go. Get the book for your own treat, or send it to friends as a gift, the first of it's kind and a labour of love.