Showing posts with label cheddar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cheddar. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Taste of the Week. Kilmeaden Fully Mature White Cheddar

Taste of the Week
Kilmeaden Fully Mature White Cheddar
An enforced change of shopping habits over the past week or two led to a few different products on the table. One, Kilmeaden’s Fully Mature White Cheddar, was a very tasty surprise and its intense and distinctive flavour went down very well indeed.
This aromatic and rich cheese, made by Glanbia in Waterford, is our Taste of the Week. And, if you’d like to take it a stage further, Kilmeaden have a few recipes on their website, including this Ratatouille & Cheese one here
Our Taste of the Week has been typically matured for 10 months and comes in a handy resealable pack. Handy size too at 200g. If it’s this good at 10 months, then the Grader’s Choice (which is matured for 2 years) must be worth a go. I’ll have to keep an eye for that and perhaps take a stab at the recipe above.
Glanbia, Citywest, Dublin 24 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Morning at Hegarty’s Cheesemakers. In Whitechurch with Jean-Baptiste

Morning at Hegarty’s Cheesemakers
In Whitechurch with Jean-Baptiste
Ready to go. Cheesemaker Jean-Baptiste

It is 9.45am when I arrive at Hegarty’s farm on the outskirts of Whitechurch, less than twenty minutes north of Cork City. Here, I’m greeted by Dan Hegarty, the frontman for their magnificent cheddar cheese that has been snapped up by restaurants and retail customers alike over the past 16 years or so. For the past three years, he has had the considerable help of French cheese-maker Jean-Baptiste Enjelvin.

Jean-Baptiste had been on duty from earlier that morning and he helps me get my kit on as I start to note how he makes their Templegall, a Comté style cheese, which has been getting sensational reviews over the past few months. 
Savoir faire. Checking the curds, by hand!

The Bordeaux native, who holds a Masters in Agriculture, Food Processing, Marketing and Management, is tasked here with the development of a new range of hard cheeses, including the new one (also similar to Gruyère), speciality cheddar and smoked cheddar.

The focus today though is on the Templegall. The vat, a beautiful 60 year old copper one, is full of fresh milk. The outside is made of stainless steel and temperature controlled water circulates in the enclosed cavity. Patience and timing are key in cheesemaking as is the personal touch, elements all common to artisan food producing. You can have all the high tech gear but a feel for the cheese (in this case) is just as important. Savoir faire is the term Jean-Baptiste uses.
Almost there

He waits until the milk - the culture and rennet had already been added - thickens, judging how quickly his scoop spins around on the surface. As it slows, he knows the perfect moment is approaching. And when it does, he starts to cut the curds. 

The cut for the Comtè style is smaller than that for cheddar. And he can’t afford delays at this point as there is an optimum window of just four minutes. “You have to do it quickly, otherwise the curd is not what you want,” Jean-Baptiste tells me. The more it is cut the more whey is lost and so the dryer the cheese.
Filling the moulds

And the cheesemaker’s touch is vital here. “You must get it as regular as you can. Too big, you get too much water. Too little could block the mould.”

That done, a paddle attachment starts to spin in the vat and the aim now, as the temperature rises slowly to 56 degrees, is to get those little curds as moisture free as possible. He regularly takes a fistful into his hand, squeezes them to check the moisture. He hands me some to taste. Don’t think he expects me to eat the lot but I do (I've missed my ten o'clock break!), and enjoy it. 
Water is squeezed out as the solids find their place

In the meantime and as the steam rises, we take a look at the stored cylinders of Hegarty’s renowned Cheddar. They are clothbound, it keeps in the moisture, and Jean-Baptiste is delighted with their progress, pointing to the older ones and telling me he loves the signs of mould and mites!

Comté in France is made mostly from the milk of Montbeliarde cows but Jean-Baptiste says they are not necessary to the process here. “We are making an Irish cheese, so we use milk from Irish cows.” And the cows here at Hegarty’s are Friesians. Templegal production in Whitechurch is now winding down for the year as it is only while the cows are out there eating grass that the milk is used for the cheese. “Sileage is not suitable for Templegal,’ insists Jean-Baptiste.

The wheels, in their reinforced casings, will stay here for the night.

In the brine
Jean-Baptiste, who plays rugby with a local club, is enjoying “the craic” in Ireland and is amazed how much the Irish love Mediterranean food.

Back to business now as the contents of the vat are pumped into the moulds. The water and the whey are forced out under the pressure and drain away and after a few minutes, during which the cheesemaker is working flat-out, we are left with two wheels full of the cheese solids. Weights and pressure are applied and the wheels are left overnight, during which time the cheese will lose more water.

Hygiene is crucial at every point and now Jean-Baptiste has a lot of washing up ahead of him, even though he has been cleaning up in any spare minute during the past hour or two.

The wheel, which weighs upwards of 40kg, will spend one full day in brine. After that, “you must look after it, wash it every 2 or 3 days as the rind forms. Bacteria will cover the cheese in red and that helps keep moisture in. I don’t want to end up with a cheese with cracks or holes in it!”
A couple of young wheels

Mould forming in the cheddar
So how long will these big wheels be stored for? Nine months is minimum, 12 months is optimum, “18 months, if we can”. That last period though may not suit Dan’s bank manager!

Now I take the gear off and taste a piece of mature comté before leaving. It is exquisite! Very Highly Recommended. Do try and get yours hands on some. I did, thanks to Jean-Baptiste who handed me a large slice of Templegall as we said au revoir!

Brothers Dan and John Hegarty are the fifth generation of Hegarty dairy farmers.  At the turn of the century, they faced a familiar problem on Irish farms. And like many before them, and since, they found a way to diversify and add value by going into cheese production, a solution that allowed both stay on the farm. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Taste of the Week. 15 Fields Cheese

Taste of the Week
15 Fields Cheese

Our Taste of the Week is the 15 Fields mature cheddar cheese. It is a cooperative effort between Eamonn Lonergan of Knockanore Cheese and Sheridan’s. The name refers to the fifteen fields of Eamonn’s West Waterford farm. The cheese is produced from “great raw milk” in Knockanore and is then transferred to the maturing room in the Sheridan’s warehouse in Meath.

Many of you will have noticed at various tastings that it is usually the young cheddar that gets the popular nod ahead of its mature cousin. Generally the reason given is people don't particularly like the usually very dry texture of the mature. Sheridan’s seem to have got over that hurdle with 15 Fields (matured for 14 months).

It is their first venture as affineurs and, while it is early days yet, they “are really happy with how it is going”. I tasted it over the Christmas (having won a hamper in a Sheridan's online competition!) and it is terrific, a lovely Cheddar, mature but not dry, full of great flavour and our Taste of the Week.

Sheridan's recent book Guide to Cheese classes cheddar as a Pressed Uncooked Cheese and you’ll also see it classed as a Scalded Hard Cheese. The group is large and varied and includes Farmhouse Gouda, Cantal, Raclette, Pyrenees, Tomme de Savoie (and other Tommes) plus most of the English county cheeses such as Red Leicester, Wensleydale, Cheshire and Double Gloucester.

They are particularly good for use in cooked dishes, the stronger flavoured ones giving the best results. Don't overcook or apply strong heat or the cheese will become stringy and leathery. They are also ideal for light meals and snacks, especially picnics and packed lunches. Versatile!
Visitors at Knockanore Farm

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Taste of the Week. Ballintubber Cheddar with Chives

Taste of the Week
Ballintubber Cheddar with Chives
This traditional West Limerick cheese has been handcrafted on Cahill’s Farm . It is wonderfully creamy and the chives give it a soft little crunch. It is an international gold medal winner* and our Taste of the Week.

I like producers who provide the consumer with hints and recipes and Cahill’s do just that on the back of the packet. They suggest grating it onto a pizza “for a gourmet twist”. They even suggest a wine: a spicy Syrah/Shiraz. Ideal they say for any cheese board - serve at room temperature with honey or red grapes.

I didn't have red grapes handy but the cheese, purchased at Dunne's Stores in Ballyvolane, sure went very well with the excellent Lisanley honey that you can buy at Bradley’s, North Main Street. And it also matched well with a wee drizzle of Highbank Orchard Syrup. So there you go, plenty of ways to try the Taste of the Week.

* In 2014, it took gold at the International Cheese Festival which is held annually in Nantwich, England.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
On the Double

Two excellent local products here, each a great taste in its own right. The cheese, from the Farm Shop in the Ballymaloe Cookery School, is creamy and full of flavour, not yet showing the dry flakiness that comes with longer maturing. You don't often see Loganberry jam nowadays but this gorgeous pot, by Follain, is available in Bradley's, North Main Street. 

In the Basque Country in South West France, and probably over the border in Spain as well, they often serve sheep cheese with a cherry jam. So why not put those two together, I thought. And it worked a treat, my Taste of the Week!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Black and White Pudding with an Oriental Touch

Black and White Pudding with an Oriental Touch

Last week we told you about the spiced up cheddar by Leah’s Gourment Foods. This week the focus is on their Black and White Puddings.

Leah has married into the Sweeney family in Kerry and they have a long tradition in food, in cheese, butter and smoked salmon.  Leah's husband is Billy and his grandmother Nell produced her own special recipe black pudding which was sold throughout the local area, and indeed Billy's grandparents on his mother's side, the O'Briens from Ballyduff, were quite renowned locally for their black pudding recipes which were handed down.

And there is also a strong black pudding connection on Leah’s side. Black pudding is a delicacy in her native Philippines. Throughout the years, Leah often made her black pudding recipe to be enjoyed by family and friends, and she was often encouraged to make it commercially. That came about a few years back. The solid base was provided by her own heritage and Billy’s family recipes. And now they have  a blend of the finest of both Filipino and Irish traditions.
I've been sampling the black pudding (and white) in recent days. The Kerry tradition has been given a spicy twist through the addition of fresh chillies, fresh ginger and fresh garlic to the blend. And it is amazingly successful. The spices are not at all overpowering; in fact they are quite moderate but their inclusion fundamentally enhances the pudding which, full of attractive flavours, is a delight on the palate, at breakfast or indeed at other other time. Besides, it doesn’t have the very salty taste of some other puddings.

Leah helpfully includes a few Black Pudding recipes on their website. She doesn’t include the Dinuguan (a very popular black pudding dish from her homeland) but she does include one for Black Pudding Scotch Eggs and that’s the one we tried.

The recipe is easy to follow and you’ll have no bother getting the ingredients. Besides, it may be made in advance. Have to say, we enjoyed it very much indeed indeed

Leah’s are included in the recently published Kerry Food Story and their products are available online and in the following places:
·         Cahill’s SuperValu, Ballybunion
·         Garvey’s SuperValu, Castleisland
·         Garvey’s SuperValu, Dingle
·         Garvey’s SuperValu, Listowel
·         Garvey’s SuperValu, Tralee
·         Lynch’s SPAR, Castlegregory
·         Cliff House Hotel, Ballybunion
·         Dingle Skellig Hotel, Dingle
·         Listowel Arms Hotel, Listowel

See last week's article on Leah's Cheddar here.

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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Little Milk Company and Their Great Cheese

The Little Milk Company.
And their great tasting cheese!
Last week it was Salon du Fromage in Paris and a bunch of export orders. This week, the Little Milk Company, with the aid of some lovely wines from Tindal Wines was trying to crack the Cork market.

And Conor Mulhall, from the Little Milk Company, came yesterday to Jacob’s on the Mall, armed with a line-up of terrific cheeses, all made from organic cows’ milk supplied by the ten farmers, spread over Munster and South Leinster, that make up the company. The herds include a mix of Jersey and Montbeliarde cows and even some rare breed.

John Liston from Croom, one of the farmers, explained that just because they are organic doesn't mean they are a bunch of fuddy duddies. Far from it; they are cutting edge, some of them ranked in the very top tranche of Irish dairy farming. Indeed, one is introducing a robotic milking system (powered by alternative energy), a system that apparently is very well liked by the cows.

John did say that generally they are small farmers and their milk is being turned into cheese by small cheesemakers and they are Knockdrinna (Kilkenny), Mossfield (Offaly) and Knockanore (Waterford).
Organic Brie
The tasting started with the Organic Brie, soft and creamy, rich and full of flavour. Superb. The new Brewer's Gold, a star in Paris and a top seller at Christmas, was semi-soft and, its rind washed daily by a local ale, might well have been better paired with a local beer, but there was no denying the beautiful flavours contained in this rich and creamy cheese. Watch out for it!

Then we were on to the multi-award winning 9 month cheddar, this made in an 18kg wheel from pasteurised milk. The body may be firm but the cream is till there, mild and gorgeous with earthy tones and a nutty aroma.

Next up was a 12 month Cheddar, 13 months actually. Harder for sure but still that creaminess is there. This too has picked up its share of awards and was a favourite at the Jacob's tasting. In fact there is no stopping these guys as their last cheese, the 18 month Vintage Cheddar, is also a medal winner. This is that bit drier, that bit more flavoursome, maybe a bit too strong for some but well worth a try.

All the cheeses are hand-made and hand-turned using traditional methods. No fewer than 17 awards have been won in the past year, most of them internationally. The judges like them and I'd have to agree that these cheeses are all very good indeed.
Brewer's Gold
The wines too were quite interesting as they were described by Billy Henchy as own-brand wines. He explained: “Anthony Tindall has been flying round the world since the company's launch in 2004, visiting our producers and sourcing the best wines for our customers. In 2007 we decided to fly solo by producing our own range of wines from South Africa. Swallows Tale was 'hatched'. Puna Snipe from Chile and Hooded Plover from Australia migrated to Ireland over the next couple of years expanding our avian collection and increasing our offering of consistently high quality, good value wines to our customers.”

You’ll see Puna Snipe in quite a few restaurants and that is the name that Tindals use to market their Chilean own-brands. We enjoyed a Sauvignon Blanc and a 2011 Chardonnay and both came across really well, the Chardonnay going down well with the Brie. And the two Chilean reds, the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot, both 2012, were also very acceptable, especially with the Cheddars.

Two Tindal blends came from South Africa, both really good, the Swallow’s Tail Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 and Swallow’s Tail Sauvignon Blanc Chenin Blanc 2012. Again the red was better with the cheddars while the lively if lightly flavoured white paired off well with the Brewers Gold. Would have liked to have tried that with either a beer or a cider.

So well done to Conor, to Billy and to John for the information and insight they brought to our little corner of Jacob’s on the Mall on Tuesday afternoon.