6 Great Irish Cheeses
Resident cheese expert Raymond Hook highlights six of his favorite Irish cheeses.
The Irish have long been quality cheese makers and cheese lovers, but only in the past 30 to 40 years have they truly become known as artisan cheese makers. They're fully embracing the ideas of raising animals to produce milk specifically intended for cheese making, respecting seasonality, and letting the animals graze naturally on pasture rather than feeding them grains or silage. And they're now producing a wide range of world quality cheeses from all milks and in various styles.
While Ireland is known for its washed rind, full-flavor cheeses, they actually also make cheeses whose flavor profiles are very much nuanced. The majority of the artisan cheese making is in southern Ireland, usually near the coast. The full-flavored cows' milk cheeses are a specialty of County Cork. They tend to be big, slightly animal-flavored with a robust aroma and a long linger — suitable for pairing with Irish whiskey, well-aged, of course.
County Clare produces an amazing soft-ripening, organic, bloomy-rinded goat’s log that rivals many from France. It really expresses the minerality of the soil and the local flora that the goats like to eat so much. County Tipperary is home to one of the more popular cheese farms, the Grubb Family Farm and Dairy. They make the popular Crozier Blue, a semi-firm sheep's milk blue. The cheese is made only part of the year, when the sheep are grazing in lush pastures.
Following are six great representations of quality Irish cheeses. They can be soft and creamy, semi-firm and a little smelly, or filled with lovely blue mold. They're just good cheeses and they can be found at most great cheese shops.