“Discover Farmhouse Cheese” is a joint initiative aiming to bring small Irish cheese to a big audience - financed with aid from the EU, DAFM, CAIS (The Association of Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers), and the Dairy Council.
According to the Association of Irish Cheesemakers, who I can’t believe aren’t called the Irish Cheese Board, Ireland’s tradition of farmhouse cheesemaking lay virtually dormant until the 20th century, and only began to flourish in the 1970’s. Cheesemaking features in early Irish literature such as the story of the Demon King of Munster. The author describes a list of cheeses, among them the ‘sweet soft smooth cheese Maothal’ and ‘a firm, dry Tánach’. Some evidence also suggests that when Irish monks like St. Gall travelled through Europe and reintroduced lost skills during medieval times, they also shared their cheesemaking know-how.
In the meantime, Irish farms used butter production as a means of saving and trading excess milk, and agriculturists only began to reconsider the cheese-making practice in the 1900’s.
Large scale cheese production began with the advent of the farmer’s co-operative movement, supplying cheddars nationwide and for British export; these are our famous creamery cheddars.
There is a really diverse range of high quality Irish cheeses available today, with many Irish artisanal producers achieving international accolades, including the prestigious “coup de coeur” at the Paris Salon du Fromage, the premier French cheese and dairy event earlier this year, awarded to both the Little Milk Company and Cashel Farmhouse Cheese.
The value of farmhouse lies in the uniqueness of character and distinction and variability in flavour that you get with smaller scale production, and visiting a local producer is a great way to engage with the product and the process – and did I mention the free cheese?
Discover Farmhouse Cheese is EU co-funded, and Germany and Holland are also running sister campaigns to spread the good word about artisanal/homemade traditional agrifood – so if you’re planning a trip to the Continent over the summer why not squeeze in a farm visit to get a taste for the culture. Find out more at www.discoverfarmhousecheese.eu.
You can book your place on an upcoming local farm tour and tasting here.