Friday, October 18, 2013

Superb line-up of Carrigaline Farmhouse Cheeses

Superb line-up of Carrigaline Farmhouse Cheeses
The Original: from the local limestone
“I love the smoked cheese”, declared Padraig O’Farrell during our visit to Carrigaline Farmhouse Cheese today (Thursday). “It is indigenous to Carrigaline. The milk is local, and the wood, old beech, is local. And we smoke it out the back.” We all loved the award-winning Smoked.

And it, and indeed all the lovely Carrigaline cheeses, underline a point made on the Discover FarmhouseCheese website : Farmhouse Cheeses are some of the most bespoke, hand-made foods in the entire world! Buy a farmhouse cheese and you get the rarest of things – each cheese has a narrative, each one is telling the story of the cheese maker and of the farm where it was made. The cheeses speak quietly about the good things, about pure food, about fine milk, and content animals, about sharing and hospitality, and the creativity of a determined individual on a small farm, stamping every cheese with the signature of their personality.

In the brine
The Carrigaline narrative began over twenty five years ago when Ann and Pat, Padraig’s parents, first produced their semi-hard cow’s milk cheese from their own herd, after Pat had undertaken a six month cheese course at UCC. Now the family process six varieties of cheese “based on our own unique recipe for both the national and international market. All of our cheese is handmade and available all year round”.
The O’Farrells no longer have their own herd but they get a consistent supply of great milk from neighbour Flor O’Riordan.

The local Supervalu is a great supporter of the cheeses and you‘ll find it in all the majors and in many fine food stores. Padraig likes to see the reaction of customers at first hand and sets up many tasting sessions. He enjoyed the recent trip to Kinsale where the Dillisk was the star and also to last Wednesday’s food fair at the County Hall where the natural cheese emerged as the favourite.

The operation, on the farm, right next to the house, is all done by hand, including the packaging. The cheeses are held for 4-8 weeks aging before being released to the shops. Five full time staff are employed and others on a part time basis according to the demands of the season.
The waxing begins...
Our tour took us through the delivery of the milk, then to the pasteurisation process, to the separation of the whey from the curds, to the brining and ripening room and then to the waxing and packaging. The different types of cheese are coated with a different coloured wax; for instance, the yellow wax is used for the original (Natural) cheese and the green for the Garlic and Herb.
Co-founder Pat O'Farrell (left) talking to a
well-dressed visitor!
The magnificent six:
Natural: this is the original cheese, semi-hard. Creamy with an incredibly satisfying piquant finish.

Garlic and Herbs: The garlic, not overbearing, brings a savoury twist.

Beech Smoked:  This, tinged “with a baconesque flavour”, has won many international awards over the years.

Dillisk Seaweed: The Dillisk from the Atlantic combines with the milk from the limestone soil to give the cheese a “must taste” combination, and gained many new friends at the recent Kinsale Gourmet Festival.

Cranberry Cheese: A modest percentage of cranberries is used and the interaction changes the cheese. “The result is a far more sophisticated cheese than one may expect.” It is well worth a try and highly recommended as indeed are all the cheeses. 

Blueberry Cheese: This really delivers “an explosion of brilliant Blueberry flavours to the palate!”. If you enjoy fruit with your cheese, then this power-packed combination is for you. And you’ll also enjoy the blueberry aromas. Again the percentage of berries is small and nicely judged!

Padraig, who has no shortage of restaurant and wine experience from his days in the US, enjoys matching his cheeses with various wines. Wine making is not (yet!) possible in Carrigaline but he also spotted a demand for a cheese biscuit. So now Carrigaline offer you three varieties of handmade Irish Oat Cheese Biscuits: Natural, Garlic and Herb and Chilli and Cheese. 

No excuse now, so off you go and try some of the magnificent six. You are sure to find a few that you like!

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