Who doesn’t love a cheeseboard! At Christmas, we have even more reason to indulge in the taste and versatility of cheeses, either as a snack or as the centre point to a meal.
Ireland has the best starting point when it comes to cheesemaking, its milk. Our milk has been described as ‘the grand cru’ of milk (Ref 1)’ and our exceptional quality inspection standards have earned our dairy products a superb global reputation, placing our country in the top 10 exporters of dairy products in the World.
80% of the island of Ireland is under pasture, where the Gulf Stream along Ireland’s coast, gives it a mild, temperate climate with plenty of rain to produce lush, green pasture, grazed by small herds of dairy animals, that spend more than three hundred days per year outdoors; more than any country in the World. Family-run farms mean Irish farmers have a wealth of animal care knowledge and experience handed down over several generations.
Ireland’s farmhouse cheese is made on the same farm where the animals live are born, bred and raised; the cheesemaker and farmer are predominantly one and the same or, the cheesemaker sources the milk from a single, or select few, local milk producers. The entire cheesemaking and maturing process take place in the location, with cheese being made in small batches, by hand, with minimal mechanisation or automation. The cheesemaker performs the roles of maker, affineur, grader, sales and marketing.
Avril Molloy of the Irish School of Cheese says “There are approximately 80 farmhouse cheesemakers on the island of Ireland, making over 200 cheeses [Ref 2] from cow, sheep, goat and buffalo milk. The extensive portfolio includes hard, soft, washed rind, naturally flavoured and blue cheese, from snow-like brie-styles, golden truckles of clothbound cheddars, mature protein crystal-laden Goudas, pungent, pink-rinded oozing washed rind cheese, fudge-like pecorino’s, goat logs and pyramids, with or without charcoal ash, sweet cooked milk Alpine-styles, Greek style and ricottas. Iconic farmhouse, ‘fermier’ and artisan cheeses styles and formats, traditionally found in France, Italy, Spain, England and other famous European cheese territories, can now be found here in Ireland. Irish farmhouse cheese has won accolades at several World Cheese Awards, Artisan Cheese Awards, The Guild of Fine Food Great Taste and World Cheese Awards”.
The perfect cheeseboard, is really dependent on who and how many guests you are serving, and the type of occasion. However, here are a few pointers to guide you and perhaps take the uncertainty out of the task of buying the Christmas cheese.
NDC asked Avril for her top tips for a festive cheeseboard
How much to buy?
For after a big meal, 50-70g per person who will eat cheese is plenty, 150g to 210g in total for three people.
For your average cheese and wine gathering, 100-150g per person is plenty. So, for 6 people you would need 600g to 900g in total, divided between the number of cheeses you choose.
How many cheeses?
One, three or five is a good guide. More than five is wasteful as your palate will be exhausted and will spoil the experience of cheese and the drinks accompanying it.
A large portion of one cheese can be extremely beautiful. For instance, Roquefort, Crozier Blue (divine ewe milk blue from the makers of Cashel Blue) or a clothbound cheddar.
Large segments of three cheeses looks impressive and won’t dry out or disintegrate as quickly as small portions. One soft, one hard and one blue cheese is a great combination, or swap the blue for an unusual washed rind, goat cheese or sheep cheese if you prefer.
Soft Wicklow Bán, Ballylisk of Armagh Triple Rose or Brie (top of my list), Corleggy Cavanbert or Cooleeney Farm Camembert look and taste delicious
Hard Templegall, made in the style of Comté by Hegarty’s cheese in Cork, winner of Supreme Champion at the 2021 Irish Cheese Awards is a superb, innovative and exciting addition to Ireland’s farmhouse cheese repertoire
Blue Young Buck a raw milk blue by Mike Thompson in Belfast is superb (www.mfcheese.com).
For further information and recipe inspiration please visit www.cheeseyourway.ie
For details on the Irish School of Cheese please visit www.irishschoolofcheese.ie
Ref 1: ‘Milk – The story of Ireland’s Culinary Treasure explored through Recipes, History & Culture’ by John & Sally McKenna in association with the National Dairy Council Estragon Press, September 2020
Ref 2: Bord Bia ‘About Irish Farmhouse Cheese’ 2021 www.bordbia.ie
For futher information contact:
Cathy Currran, Communications Manager, National Dairy Council
+353 1 290 2518 | firstname.lastname@example.org