Showing posts with label Hegarty's Cheese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hegarty's Cheese. Show all posts

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Veronica Steele. Pioneer in Irish cheese. Focus too on County Cork in new Oxford Companion to cheese.

Veronica Steele. Pioneer in Irish cheese.
Focus too on County Cork in new Oxford Companion to cheese.
A buffalo on Johnny Lynch's farm, near Macroom
Pioneer cheesemaker Veronica Steele is credited with the development of modern Irish artisanal cheese and County Cork cheese in general gets a section to itself in the The Oxford Companion to Cheese, due to be published on December 1st. 


The 1084 page book, edited by Dr Catherine Donnelly, is the first major reference work dedicated to cheese and contains 855 A-Z entries in cheese history, culture, science and production. 

In the early 1970s, Steele and her husband, Norman, a lecturer in philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, decided to leave the city and the academic life in favour of raising a family on a small farm. 

Veronica first experimented to provide an alternative to processed cheese for her family and to preserve the excess milk from their one cow. She eventually evolved a soft and pungent washed rind cheese called Milleens. It was a great success and by 1981 was selling in shops and restaurants throughout Ireland and as far away as London and Paris. 

Steele was also inspired by cheesemaking as a route to viability for a rural area struggling with high unemployment. Today, Veronica and Norman’s son Quinlan carry on the tradition of making Milleens, but the book says that all of Ireland owes Veronica Steele a debt of gratitude for her vision and generosity of spirit. 

The big breakthrough for Milleens came when Declan Ryan and Myrtle Allen tasted her cheese and enthusiastically featured their discovery on the cheese boards of two of Ireland’s most renowned restaurants, Arbutus Lodge and Ballymaloe House.

The West Cork washed-rind cheeses Milleens, Durrus, Gubbeen, and North Cork’s Ardrahan, each has an international reputation, and were all created by remarkable, spirited women, most inspired by Veronica. The flavour of Milleens is reminiscent of Munster (not the local Munster!).

Jeffa Gill started to make her semi-soft, washed-rind Durrus cheese on her hillside farm in Coomkeen on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in 1979. She too was one of the first generation of Irish farmhouse cheese-makers. Using artisanal methods, Jeffa and her team, gently and slowly craft a cheese that is closely linked to the land and the mild and humid climate.

Gubbeen farmhouse cheese is made from the milk of Tom and Giana Ferguson’s herd of Friesian, Jersey, Simmental, and Kerry cows. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Gubbeen cheese is the unique type of microflora on the rind, which has now been identified and given the name Microbacterium gubbeenense.

Ardrahan, made by Mary Burns near Kanturk in North Cork since 1983, is possibly the feistiest and most pungent of all the washed-rind cheeses of County Cork.

Although the washed-rind cows milk cheeses have the highest profile they are by no means the whole cheese story of County Cork. Other fine cheeses, made from both cows milk and goats milk and now buffalo, round out Cork’s contribution to cheesemaking. 
Coolea

Dick and Helene Willems started making Coolea cheese in 1979 as a way to use up excess raw milk from their own herd of cattle and to provide the Gouda cheese that they were craving from their native Netherlands. Their son Dicky continues to make the superb cheese using milk from two local herds. 

Dicky told me an interesting story on a recent visit. Their cheese was to be called Milleens after the local townland but that was knocked on the head as the Steeles, further west, on the Beara peninsula, and living in a townland of the same name, had just started making a cheese called Milleens. And so the Coolea brand was born.
St Gall, by Fermoy
Frank Shinnick and his German wife, Gudrun, began making raw-milk cheese in 1996 from their own dairy herd outside Fermoy, in North Cork. The cheeses are made in a 396-gallon (1,500-litre) copper vat procured at considerable effort from Switzerland. Fermoy cheeses are part of the Slow Food raw-milk cheese presidium. 

There are many other cheesemakers in the Cork area, such as the O’Farrells in Carrigaline and the Hegartys in Whitechurch, both well established. 

“I love the smoked cheese”, declared Padraig O’Farrell during a visit. “It is indigenous to Carrigaline. The milk is local, and the wood, old beech, is local. And we smoke it out the back.”

Hegarty’s make cheddar and their more mature versions are in great demand. The oldest is indeed the more popular though, according to Dan Hegarty, his bank manager would prefer if the youngest was in top position!



Goats Milk Cheeses 


Jane Murphy

Jane Murphy, a microbiologist by profession, is perhaps the queen of goats milk cheese in County Cork, having started to make cheese on the Ardsallagh farm in 1980. At the other side of the city, Orchard Cottage thrives as does Blue Bells Falls in Newtownshandrum in North Cork.  



In Kilmichael, you’ve got the Sunview goats. Further west, on Cape Clear Island off West Cork, the remarkable blind cheesemaker Ed Harper makes small quantities of cheese from the milk of British Alpine goats that graze on his beautiful rocky farmland.

New Cheesemakers

Franco, cheesemaker at Toons Bridge Dairy, near Macroom
A few years back, neighbours Toby Simmonds and Johnny Lynch imported water buffalo and began making Toons Bridge mozzarella. A “parting” saw Johnny continue to make and sell the cheese, but now under the Macroom label.

There followed a burst of creativity at Toby’s Toons Bridge dairy and a few interesting Italian style cheeses emerged, including Cacio Cavallo (traditionally tied in pairs and transported to market by pack horse). And thanks to an Italian living near by, who has a small herd of sheep, Toons Bridge also began to make Vicenza’s Pecorino.
Cacio Cavallo (mainly) in Toons Bridge
And two new cheesemakers have emerged in East Cork this year. You’ll find the cheddar style cheese from the farm of Bó Rua used in the 12 mile menu at Midleton’s Sage Restaurant and on sale generally. Not too far away, Stephen Bender produces a delicious Gouda style cheese called Ballinrostig.

Looks like there’s no end to what Veronica Steele started!

The Oxford companion, the most comprehensive work on cheese available, has drawn on an astonishing 325 authors (from 35 countries), from cheesemakers and cheese retailers to dairy scientists, microbiologists, historians and anthropologists. 

It is a landmark encyclopaedia, the most wide-ranging, comprehensive, and reliable reference work on cheese available, suitable for both novices and industry insiders alike.

* Cork has a butter museum. Time now for a cheese museum?

See also:
Cashel Blue featured in new Oxford Companion to Cheese




Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Longueville Cider And Apple Brandy At Electric

Longueville House Cider 
And Apple Brandy At Electric
Sangria, Cider, Apple Brandy
The dishes at Sunday evening’s supper in Electric South Mall had unusual pairings: the ciders and apple brandy from Longueville House, presented by Rupert Atkinson who surprised many with his declaration against ice in your cider!

“No ice! It waters down the flavours and kills the carbon. Enjoy this like a wine, in a wine glass.” So we sipped this naturally cloudy cider and we did enjoy it very much indeed with our starter: Butternut Squash Salad (with Roast Red Peppers, Crumbled Feta, and Spiced Peanuts).

There was a big welcome from Rupert as we arrived and he soon had us seated with a tall glass of Cider Sangria in our hands. Outside, summer hadn't quite broken through as forecast but inside we enjoyed this very refreshing drink.

As the mains were being served, the Longueville House man introduced us to their Cider Mór, aptly named as the ABV here is 8%. He explained that a little apple brandy has been added to this limited edition. Again no ice but you may serve it straight from the fridge. It should do well with the fish and chips and it did.
Harvest time at Longueville
Many of you will know that the Electric version of Fish and chips is an excellent example; the fish is not smothered in batter. Oh yes, they do use a batter and Sunday's was featherly light and the delicious fish was immediately apparent, not hard to find in a large pocket. The full description: Cider & Dill Battered Hake, Leek and Pea Purée, Chips and Tartare Sauce.

We would finish with a flourish. Hegarty’s Cheddar was paired with the Longueville House Apple Brandy. “This is made in Whitechurch and is one of Ireland's best cheeses”, said Rupert; it was served with apple, relish and crostini.

Like all the ciders, the brandy comes from apples grown in the orchards of Longueville. We enjoyed the 2009 vintage and it was quite a while in the making. Its story started with the 2006 apple crop. Three years later, the cider is doubled distilled and then the brandy spends a minimum of four years in French red wine casks.

“No mixer needed,” Rupert emphasised. “It is very smooth, no burning and good for digestion, best after a good meal. If it feels a little cool, just warm it in the palm of the hand.” So lots of good advice, good food and good drink all added up to a very enjoyable evening at Electric.

Click here to read all about my visit to Longueville House and its orchards last autumn.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

All About Farmers at Ballymaloe, Port. Cheese, Chocolate.

All About Farmers at Ballymaloe

Port. Cheese, Chocolate.
It was all about farmers at Ballymaloe last Thursday evening, appropriately enough in the week that the East Cork food destination celebrated the 90th birthday of Myrtle Allen.  Myrtle turned her front room into a restaurant fifty years ago and the rest is food history, still evolving. And Ballymaloe is still a farm, of course.

Thursday was also about Port, cheese and chocolate. The only real farmer on stage was Dan Hegarty whose family in Whitechurch make the well known and well loved cheddar. Chris Forbes from Taylor’s Port told us of the many small holders on the steep slopes of the Douro while Shana Wilkie of Wilkie’s Chocolate, Ireland's only bean to bar chocolate maker, told us of the small Peruvian farms from where she gets her beans.

It is mountainy in the Douro and very hot. There are some 35,000 tiny holdings, according to Chris, but Taylor’s buy grapes from less than 100. Taylor’s also grow their own - their Quinta de Vargellas is one of the best known in the world - and the port is made from a variety of indigenous grapes.

Port is a fortified wine. Fermentation is stopped after 2 or 3 days by adding 77% proof alcohol. That arrests the fermentation and maintains the high sugar level. Some hard work before all that though. The pickers start early, stop for lunch and wine, start again and stop in early evening for more food and more wine.
But they are not finished. They then start the traditional foot-treading in the lagar, two hours of tough going, squeezing out the juice and the colour. All Taylor’s vintage ports are made using traditional methods, including foot-threading.

We started the tasting with a 2008 LBV (Late Bottled Vintage). LBV was created in the 1970’s by Taylor’s, all the grapes coming from the one year and it spends 4 to 6 years in large wooden vats. Taylor’s are the world leaders in this style and, as we saw, it goes very well indeed with both cheese and chocolate (the Amazonas). By the way, if you open a bottle, Chris advised to finish within 3 to 4 weeks, as it loses its freshness after that.

Dan Hegarty was  very impressed with the Port and said he was thinking of giving up his favourite lager. Indeed, there is no shortage of good humour as Dan took us through the family’s relatively short history of making cheddar.
Shana and her relationship with the farmers
They started in 2000, using the traditional methods, and sell their products at different ages. They “went mad” early on, going flat out with production but now they are more restrained and there are only marginal increases from year to year. It is a two year cycle and they milk about 100 cows. On Thursday, we tasted three ages: 6 months, 12 months and 18. The older was the more popular though, according to Dan, his bank manager would prefer if the youngest was in top position!

Fonseca Quinta do Panascal Vintage Port 1998, the produce of just one vineyard, was next up, “an affordable way to drink vintage Port.” It is now 14 years in bottle with opulence, spiciness and red currant flavours. It proved an excellent match with Wilkie’s Amazonas with Cocoa Nibs and also with the 6 month old cheddar. And a word of advice from Chris: “On opening, decant, and drink that evening!”

Shana too had a few tips for recognising good chocolate. “Shiny chocolate is normally good, dull is not so good. A sharp snap is also a good sign.” Shana is originally a graphic designer “by trade" but always had a great interest in food.

She went on to tell how she got into chocolate making and got familiar with the different beans and flavours and was drawn to the Criollo flavour bean. She now works with a few families in Peru. At home, and home now is Midleton as she has returned to the East Cork, she is always experimenting, always getting better and indeed she already has some impressive awards to her name. 
Her Tumbes chocolate was an excellent match with the 10 Year Old Tawny. This port has spent ten years in small wooden casks, no new wood used. It is lighter in colour with mellow notes and little spice. Chris described it as a “liquid fruit cake”. Went well with the chocolate and also the 18 month cheddar. Great too with pates and terrines, according to Chris. “The style is fresh and clean and it is easy drinking.”

Chris surprised some by suggesting that these Tawines (we finished with the exquisite 20 Year Old, even lighter in colour and with a toastier aroma) be served slightly chilled and also suggested serving them in summer as well as the more traditional winter usage.

The three gathered on stage for a deserved round of applause and there was thanks too for Peter Corr of Febvre who assisted throughout the evening and for Ballymaloe’s Colm McCann and his team.
Left to right: Chris Forbes, Peter Corr, Shana Wilkie, Dan Hegarty and Yours Truly.




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Port and Cheddar (and now Chocolate!) at Ballymaloe

Port and Cheddar (and now Chocolate!) at Ballymaloe
Taylor's, a major name in Port.

Chris Forbes from Taylors Port, Oporto, and Dan Hegarty, Hegarty's Cheddar, Cork, are all set for a Port and Cheddar talk and tasting in The Grainstore at Ballymaloe, on Thursday 13th March, 7pm. €15.00.
Ports to be tasted are Taylor’s LBV, Taylor’s 10 & 20 Year Old and a Fonseca Panascal 1998.

Now it will be Port, Cheddar and Chocolate at Ballymaloe. Just got confirmation that Niall Daly from the Chocolate Shop in the English Market will be on the stage as well!


Ballymaloe House
Shanagarry,
Co. Cork
Tel: 021 4652531