These 3 Irish Cheeses are Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day
For a truly Irish feast this St. Patrick’s Day, opt for Irish cheese.
You may associate St. Patrick’s Day cuisine with corned beef and cabbage, but here’s some potentially bad news: corned beef is more an Irish-American tradition than a proper Irish one. (Cabbage, though, is very much part of the Irish culinary culture.) Soda bread, too, is more of a simple brown bread preparation in the motherland, than the caraway and currant studded version that is often heralded stateside.
Cheese, however, is well-loved in Ireland.
Ireland is in the top 25 countries worldwide in terms of overall cheese production, but when it comes to production per capita, it jumps up to the top five.
They call it the Emerald Isle for a reason: there’s a lot of lush grass. If you’ve ever spent time driving around Ireland you may have also noticed that there are a lot of animals — specifically cows and sheep — grazing on grass. Ireland makes for some exemplary milk, and to follow that thought rainbow to its inevitable pot of gold, some truly exemplary cheese.
So consider a cheese plate this St. Patrick’s Day (corned beef and soda bread optional), with three Irish cheeses perfect for the occasion.
Related Reading: Irish Soda Bread Recipe
Ireland may be referred to as the Emerald Isle, but when it comes to cheese, the Irish are definitely seeing blue. According to Sheridan’s, Ireland’s largest cheese retailer, Cashel Blue is the country’s most popular cheese. (Though if you wanted to seek out a more green-veined cheese such as Point Reyes Bay Blue in tribute to the Irish love of blue cheese, I can’t fault the logic.) Ireland’s original blue cheese, Cashel Blue was first made in the 1980s on Beechmount Farm in County Tipperary by Jane and Louis Grubb to highlight the exceptional quality of the region’s grass-fed cow’s milk. As the song goes, “it’s a long way to Tipperary,” but fortunately for us stateside, many of their cheeses are still available beyond Ireland.
Cashel Blue is a semi-firm blue with a sweet and creamy paste and only the gentlest, friendly sting: a perfect blue to convert any non-believers, and regularly available in the United States, care of its distribution via London’s major cheese retailer, Neal’s Yard. The Cashel operation now also produces several other cheeses, including Crozier Blue, a sheep’s milk cheese with a richer and sharper profile than Cashel Blue.
Knockanore Smoked Cheddar
While Cashel Blue may be Ireland’s favorite cheese, cheddar is often thought of first when it comes to Irish cheesemaking, and you wouldn’t be wrong to include a cheddar in an Irish-themed lineup. Several Irish brands — especially the ubiquitous Kerrygold — make cheddars that you can probably find in a conventional grocery store, and you may even luck out with a green, wax-coated Irish cheddar for the occasion.
For my money though, look out for Knockanore. Located in the township of Ballyneety in County Waterford, “Knockanore” translates to “hill of gold.” From their herd of 200 Friesian cattle, Eamonn and Patricia Lonergan produce a variety of raw milk cheddars that showcases the full spectrum of cheddar colors. Additional flavored cheddar options include standouts such as onion and caraway, as well as horseradish and rosemary.
That it’s made with raw milk already sets Knockanore apart, but the smoked rendition is iconic in the region for its unique smoked characteristic — an application more familiar to gouda than cheddar. The firm yet open-textured cheese is cold-smoked for 10 days using locally-sourced Lismore oak, resulting in a mahogany exterior and a robust, nearly meaty flavor.
Situated on the coast in West Cork, The Gubbeen farm is a multi-faceted operation maintained by the Ferguson family, providing all manner of artisan farmstead products from cheese to smoked meats to heirloom poultry. Cheesemaker Giana Ferguson only makes one cheese, but Gubbeen is easily the mother of Irish washed rind cheeses.
Made from cow’s milk and cured with brine during its one to two months of aging, the resulting Gubbeen has been described as the “sticky toffee pudding” of cheeses. With its blushing exterior and supple paste, it certainly has visual dessert appeal, besides which hazelnuts and butter can definitely be detected among the complex notes of its flavor profile.
If you’re also able to find Durrus, another powerful Irish washed rind whose meaty character will more than make up for the corned beef you opted out of this year, then the luck of the Irish really is on your side.
Related Reading: Two Irish Ways to Enjoy Potatoes for St. Patrick’s Day
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