Monday, March 16, 2009

Irish Farmhouse Cheeses for St. Paddy’s Day

By Pat Tanner

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy corned beef and cabbage as much as anyone. But it seems a shame to limit St. Patrick’s Day vittles to this warhorse when there is so much more to modern-day Irish comestibles.

With its lush green pastures and clean air, the Irish countryside produces some of the best dairy products in the world – a fact that I was reminded of recently when I sampled a selection of Irish farmhouse cheeses. I decided then and there that this March 17th the centerpiece of my dinner would be a cheese platter with very traditional accoutrements: brown soda bread and Irish chutney (customarily made with apples, raisins, and onions bound with a little apple cider and mustard seed). And I will wash it all down with a good Irish stout, of course.

A survey of the markets in my area notable for their cheese selections yielded up a bounty of Irish beauties. I found excellent choices at Bon Appetit in the Princeton Shopping Center and Olsson’s Fine Foods at the Trenton Farmers’ Market. Throughout the state, Wegmans and Kings markets offer great choices, as do the Market Basket in Franklin Lakes, The Cheese Shop of Ridgewood, and Sickle’s Market in Little Silver.

Here is just a smattering of the delectable Irish cheeses you’re likely to encounter:

  • Coolea: a mild and creamy cows milk cheese handmade in County Cork
  • Cahill’s Porter Cheese: Lovingly made by Dan Cahill’s mother on their farm in County Limerick, the family’s Irish Cheddar is blended with genuine Irish porter, creating a dramatic marbled effect
  • Cashel Blue: Ireland’s original artisanal blue cheese, made by the Grubb family on a single farm in County Tipperary
  • Adrahan Farmhouse: A semi-soft cheese with a golden washed rind from County Cork, described by Michel Lemmerling of Bon Appetit as having an “earthy flavor and slight smoky tang”
  • Kerrygold Dubliner: a sweet, robust cheese, aged over twelve months, that combines the sharpness of mature cheddar, the nuttiness of Swiss, and the bite of Parmesan. The cheese was developed by Irishman John Lucey and the recipe remains a secret.

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