Tasting Irish Cheeses
Published Tuesday, February 28, 2006 by Matt Armendariz | E-mail this post
Of course we all know you cannot say it without smiling. I actually cannot say it without salivating. The actually origin of cheese varies, with some food historians claiming it was first created in the Middle East, others in Greece and France. I am not a food historian so I won't offer any insight, although I do find the story of the Arab Nomad pretty romantic. After having filled a saddlebag with milk for a long journey across the desert he was surprised to find that the contents of the bag had separated into curds and whey. Did I mention the bag was made from the stomach of a young animal, giving the process the enzyme it needed to make the cheese?
I don't know about you, but hot milk under the desert sun isn't exactly my idea of refreshing. Couldn't he have just taken along a mai tai? Oh wait, then there'd be no cheese. Nevermind.
Ireland hasn't always been in the forefront of my mind when it comes to cheese production. Shamrocks, single malts and ballymaloe always came to mind, but cheese? English Stilton, Cheddar and Cheshire have always been favorites, so you can imagine how shocked I was that I wasted so much time getting to know the cheeses of Ireland.
Bad Matt! Bad Matt!
Boy, I had a lot of catching up to do. And catching up I did. I called up my friend Loren, got a few Irish cheeses together and had a small tasting. Definitely love at first bite.Matt's Tasting Notes
Because of Ireland's climate, dairy herds graze on fresh pastures every 12 months. This results in rich, creamy cheese that is bold, assertive, and downright delicious.
Vintage Irish CheddarIt's no secret that my personal flavor profile includes strong, full-bodied tastes and a love of strong, savory ingredients. Vintage Irish Cheddar was right there with me. It's been aged for 12 months which results in a rich, rounded flavor and smooth body. I could eat my own body weight in this stuff.
DublinerKind of hard to pinpoint, this one. A harder cheese similar to cheddar but with an almost-nutty aftertaste like a softer Swiss. I read that it makes for a great grilled cheese sandwich (insert Pete Wells joke here) and I can see why. Delicious with a capital D.
Tipperary Irish CheddarQuick, get this block of cheese out of my hand now! I think this is the perfect snacking cheese as its creamy texture just melts in your mouth. A bit sharper than the Vintage Irish Cheddar I tasted.
Cahill's Whiskey CheddarWhen I say this was one of the most unusual things I've tasted in quite some time I mean it. Visually it's just as striking too, with a beautiful chunky mosaic pattern that is the result of Irish whiskey blended with cheddar. There's no missing the flavor of the whiskey at first bite, giving way to the tangy taste of the cheddar after a few seconds. And then there's the aroma of this cheese, too. Wow.
Green-Waxed BalleycashelBig, green and striking, the result of the wheel being dipped in green wax. Creamy and soft, one of the lighter flavored cheese in this tasting.
Cashel BlueOk, so apparently Jane and Louis Grubb have been making this cheese since the 1980s and I'm just tasting it today. I'm embarrassed, ashamed, and on a mission to catch up. This is Ireland's only blue, lighter, softer and milder than its blue cousins around the world. I'm going to stop gushing about this cheese because I harbor a secret bias in favor of blue cheeses. I can never get enough.
Of course this isn't an extensive list of Irish cheeses, just the ones I could get my grubby little hands on. Know of any favorites you can suggest? I'd love to know. And if you live in Ireland and have an empty couch, well, I'm always available. I'm the perfect guest!