Dublin Shop Cheesemongers hit the road

Here is an insightful account of a recent trip taken by our Dublin Cheesemongers by ‘Monger Dominique. 

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Sheridans recently sent three members of their Dublin Shop to visit some much beloved producers of Irish cheese and meats production counties Cork and Tipperary.

Our trip was for two days but in order to make the most of it, as with cheese and crackers, we paired some natural opportunities:

  • in Kanturk, there were Ardrahan and McCarthy’s
  • in Cork City, The English Market and it’s long faithful love, On the Pig’s Back
  • And in Tipperary ,  we were herded over to the Cashel Blue factory near Fethard with Henry Clifton Browne’s flock of sheep.

First was Kanturk, three hours from Dublin when you leave at 6:30am. It is a sweet older town, lively, busy with big signs advertising bargains and thankfully not many To Let signs.

First port of call was Ardrahan, which is a true farmhouse cheese, we turned into the driveway marked out by short yellow gate posts with a sign reading ‘Ardrahan House” stenciled on the side. It is only byrounding a once affluent and equally yellow house into a car filled courtyard that we gained a little more confidence.  When a brisk older woman with a warming welcome emerged from the back door– we knew we’d reached Mary Burns and her Ardrahan.

Ardrahan is largely in Mary’s hands but it has been and will continue to be a family enterprise.  Liz, her daughter has a family member’s interest and led us on the tour, Mary’s son Ger manages the milking herd and the land and Joan and Mark, both locals, assist in the cheese making rooms. They have been with the Burns family for years.

The cheese tour begins immediately: hairnets, blue booties and white coats, this is not a fashion show. Joan is waiting by the vat with the set milk and begins to cutting the curd with passes of her cheese harp. It seems soothing, cutting and washing the curd and then doing it all over again, but it takes strength and experience to know when it is the right consistency for forming the cheese. Once accomplished the cheese making kicks into its own rapid development, the cheesemakers have ten or so minutes, two buckets, and 170 molds to fill with curd before it becomes too dry to set properly into cheese. Filled molds are then pressed with weight, once set they go into the brine. In this case the baby is the bathwater in that cheese makers hold on to their brine for years as it becomes part of the process in making the unique cheese.

In the cheese rooms the cheese exhibits the homespun variability that we know so well in the shop. Each cheese has a different depth and colours to its neighbours. The most consistent element, the identifying pattern on the rind, comes from almost haphazardly chosen wire racks on which the cheese is aged. Natural processes assist, even wrest with the cheese makers in the ageing process. Washing away unwelcome moulds and encouraging the growth you seek is like gardening but at a fungal and bacterial levels; they are kept busy shaking hands with one and shooing another. Finally there is the packing room where, emerging from their caves into the light, the ready cheese wait to be wrapped, labeled and sent to their next destinations.

Over lunch we talked with Mary, discovering how she came to making Ardrahan.. Mary applied to a cheese-making course for farmers in UCC in the early 1980’s and was told that she wasn’t farmer (man) enough to participate but when the turnout was low they changed their minds and invited her in.  Louis Grubb and some other cheese makers were also there. The course focused on cheddars and production at a larger scale than was practical to small farms but within the course they spent a week with an Irish cheese maker, Mary chose Milleens with Veronica Steele, and it was here that she found something practical for the farm.

McCarthy’s was our next destination. Kanturk, I finally learn, mystery solved, translates from the Irish as Boar’s Head. I was not misleading people seeking the McCarthy’s Boar’s Head pudding when I pointed to McCarthy’s of Kanturk (I had seen a Boar’s Head label on it before). Jack with his son Tim are the able-bodied forces behind the local and national reaching butchers. Jack is a larger than life man, an entrepreneur who works in food.

Most of the meats are locally sourced or from a field not too many beyond. They take it all in by hand and so are able to respond to the different breeds, ages, sizes that are brought in from the field (which is not possible in so automated factories), the pigs used go beyond the limited definition of ‘free-range’, succulent cappoquin chickens, mountain lamb, you can feel the countryside taking on rich dimensions.

Fed well visually and viscerally we feel it would be safer to head to Cork before Jack pulls us into a pub and the stories begin.

Our next stop is Isabelle Sheridan (not related except in activities) of On the Pig’s Back and Cork’s beautiful English Market.  Isabelle Sheridan is the woman behind On the Pig’s Back, it has been running in Cork for over ten years. She began with patés and terrines and her collections stretched to include a considerable variety of cheese, choice of crackers (including Sheridan’s), some freshly baked savories and breads. Isabelle recently opened an On the Pig’s Back in Douglas to accommodate the need for a bigger kitchen but it has become its own success and is packed with Corkonians for the lunch times.

The next day was an early drive to Tipperary and all things Cashel Blue. Sarah Furno, of the Grubb family, decided that we probably didn’t see much of the farms that engendered all of these cheese making projects and so arranged our first visit to be with Henry Clifton-Brown, her cousin, who is responsible for all of the sheep and all of the milk they produce.

From there we go on to the new Cashel Blue factory which is across the road from the old Courtyard where is all used to happen in Fethard, Co. Tipperary. It is quite discreet in its setting. We go through a door and enter into a very professional cheese making facility. I am a little giddy and the size of it. The intention was to create a place where the cheese could be made sustainably, in its current and increasing quantities, without exhausting the people or the landscape involved.  No curd cutting today but we see the open vats where the cheese harps (broaching looms)and harpists prepare the curd, lines of molds empty but for tomorrow’s Cashel Blue and then on into the brining and the ageing rooms. The brine is, as with Ardrahan, treasured and both Crozier and Cashel take their first swim in the same pool. The ageing rooms smell like sweet, young lactic Cashel and we begin to hunger. During the tour I learn that Louis and Jane Grubb’s recipe for Cashel Blue is quite unusual for a blue cheese; Cashel Blue is not like anything else (ie. it is not an Irish Stilton). They raise the temperature to a higher degree during the initial curding stage and then they age the cheese in moist cooler refrigeration for longer and use fabulous Irish milk – resulting in a more buttery, sweet, creamy blue than most and one which relies on the richness of Irish cow milk. The cheese made with Henry’s ewe milk is made very similarly but needs to age for a little longer and produces a cheese which is more blue, with a clear rich salty paste.

I’ve learned a great deal about our cheese makers and meat product producers, the art of their work and how they wrest and work with natural forces on one side and again with market forces on the other. Nature seeks change, lives in cycles and diversity and the market, particularly the larger market seeks the general and conformity. One of the joys of being a small farmhouse producers and working at Sheridan’s is that we seek to work with the natural products and create and offer individual and unique tastes which celebrate the land and engagement with it.

I think that it was a successful trip, at least for me.

Nothing is simple and easy and I think that is a general rule for all the good things in life J

Sheridan’s Christmas Fair 2013

xmas fair

 

Our 2013 Christmas Fair will take place on the Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th of December from 10pm – 6pm at our Virginia Rd. Station Shop in Co. Meath. Jam packed with Food, Wine, Local Craft Products, Kid’s Fun, Carol Singing and Mulled Wine.

Stay tuned for more updates.

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Cheese of the Month – November

November Cheese of the Month is available to buy in our online store – Buy Now

sheridans-classic-selection-1344887302This month we have four cheeses from the cellars of Marcel Petite; an Affineur from the Jura Mountains who has supplied Sheridans with cheeses for fifteen years. The most famous of these cheeses and the one which is the most important to Marcel Petite and the Jura agriculture is of course Comté. Comté is also Sheridans and France’s most popular cheese! There are many qualities of Comté available from numerous producers and many affineurs and even Marcel Petite has a range to choose from. The quality is determined by several factors; most importantly where and when the cheese is made, and whether the Affineur matures the cheese at a higher temperature for a shorter period or chooses to allow a slow maturation which develops the flavour more subtly. Our Comté is made from summer milk when the famous Jura Montbelaird cows are grazing on fresh grass and they are matured for a minimum of 10 months in Petites ‘Fort Saint Antoine’ cellars. These vast cellars, housing 100,000 cheeses are built into the mountains where the cattle graze; here the cheeses are slowly and carefully matured each cheese tasted and graded. The result is a cheese with a gentle, rich and complex flavour.

Making these large wheels of cheese during the summer months when grass and milk is plentiful is an ancient tradition in this region; families have been pooling their milk to make these great cheeses for generations. The large wheels are hardy and long lasting, perfect for storing the goodness of summer milk for leaner times and also perfect for transportation to towns and cities. During the winter months when the cattle are in sheds and feeding on hay another tradition began; producing smaller softer cheeses; the Mont d’Or. We look forward every autumn to the arrival of this seasonal cheese, arriving in October and disappearing for another year in spring. Unlike its big brother Comté it is made in small wheels and not made to last; probably the cold weather was enough to protect this cheese in the winter months.

This is one of the greatest cheese producing regions of the world, not only for the quantity and quality produced but also the wonderful traditions which have been preserved. Our third cheese this month has a fantastic tradition at its formation. The story goes that when the cheesemaker was producing the large wheels of Comté there would always be a little curd left in the bottom of the vat, this cheese was put aside in a small mold and covered in some of the wood ash from the fire to protect it, when the evening cheeses were being made another layer of curd was added and then this cheese with a distinctive black strip of ash running through the centre was matured for the cheesemaker’s family. This cheese is still made and called Morbier. The last our cheeses from this region is less well known; Bleu de Gex. This is a wonderfully mild blue cheese, it also has quite an unusual texture for a blue cheese more like a Raclette and it is a wonderful cooking blue. Each of the cheeses are extremely versatile in cooking or as they are, enjoy!

October Cheese of the Month

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October Cheese of the Month is available to buy in our online store – Buy Now

This month we are celebrating Irish Farmhouse cheese; there is nothing new in that, but this October there is a broader campaign been run by An Bord Bia to promote Farmhouse cheese, it is part of a three year campaign to promote farmhouse cheeses in Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland. You can find out some more details by visiting www.discoverfarmhousecheese.ie. The campaign is aimed I suppose particularly at those who aren’t as aware of Farmhouse cheeses as Sheridans’ customers. However we are always happy to take part and we will have even more tastings and events in our shops all through the month.

The idea has raised a debate which is never far from the surface in Irish cheese circles; what is farmhouse cheese? Many other regions have strict guidelines and the most obvious international definition is cheese made on a farm using the milk from that farm, known in France as ‘Fermier’ cheese. There is no definition in Ireland and the word farmhouse is used with a broader meaning. Irish Farmhouse tends to refer to any cheese made on a relatively small scale outside of the traditional creamery model. So should we push for a stronger definition? The modern world loves definitions, they help us categorise within a bureaucratic infrastructure and in our rush to define we can lose the spirit of the thing. However when we work to protect our farmhouse cheeses from imposters the lack of a good definition can be a real problem. In Sheridans we define Irish farmhouse cheese as being made with milk that comes from a specific region, where a crafts person has been involved in the production and most importantly where the overriding objective is to make a quality cheese regardless of how easy it is to pack in blocks, the length of shelf life, its price point and all the other elements that dominate food production. So many of our Farmhouse cheeses are made from the milk of neighbours or a couple of neighbours, some are made on a tiny scale and some are decent size businesses.

The four cheeses we have selected this month are all Irish farmhouse and are all made with raw milk and only one is made with the milk from the producers own farm. The decision by a producer to use raw milk means that more than anything else they are aiming to achieve the best taste quality they can; it is not easy to make cheese with raw milk in many ways. The craft itself is more difficult because pasteurising makes the milk more consistent where as raw milk is more likely to change day by day, and most definitely it is made more difficult by the anti-raw milk regulatory establishment within Irish state agencies and industry. So for me DurrusBellingham BlueTriskel and Mount Callan are all most definitely Irish Farmhouse Cheese, enjoy them this month and enjoy farmhouse cheese every month.

Croque ‘n’ Soup

Seasonal and comforting, here is a gentle cheesy way to welcome autumn.

Croque'n'Soup

You’ll need:

For the Soup:

  • 1 Broccoli Head and Stalk
  • 2 Potatoes
  • 1 small leek of an onion
  • A dash of Fresh cream
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Croque:

  • Any good bread sliced
  • 100g of butter
  • 1 small leek
  • 200g of Comté/ Gruyère
  • Milk
  • A wee dash of white wine
  • A nice bit of ham
  • 100g flour
  • A teaspoon of Dijon mustard.

How To:

For The Soup:

Simplicity at its best! Chop all the veg in reasonably small pieces and throw in a hot pan; the secret for a good soup is the sweating part to release all the flavours. The other secret is to salt during this time as it will help the veg to draw their flavours. Top up with water and let simmer for 20 minutes before blitzing.

For the Croque:

Quarter the leak lengthways and then finely sliced it. Put it in the pan with the butter on a low heat. Add the flour and stir to a roux. Little by little pour in the milk and keep stirring. Once thickened, grate in 100g of comté and the teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Spoon the béchamel mix inside the bread before placing the slices of ham with more grated cheese, and a bit on the top slice before grilling. A glass of Montepuliciano, Pinot noir for the reds, Burgundy Chardonnay or Pinot Bianco for the whites!

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Bra – Cheese 2013

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An insightful account of Cheese 2013 in Bra, Piedmont (North Italy) by our Galway Cheesemonger Emilia Furey.

When I found out I was going to attend the Bra Cheese Festival in Piedmonte, Italy as a representative of Sheridans Cheesemongers, I don’t think I knew what to expect. I knew good food, good wine and most likely good weather was involved and possibly some hard graft at our cheese stall over the course of the few days the festival ran. It was all that… But also so much more…

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Travelling from Milan airport in our cortege of cars filled with excited Cheesemongers, we drove through the Italian countryside for just over two hours to reach our destination fantastico – Bra. Here, in this quiet, beautiful and special little gem of a town, we drove around to view what was to become the hub of all things Slow Food and all things cheese! On our first day, set up was just beginning and all the many strange and wonderful cheese makers, cheesemongers and other special stall holders were hard at work trying to create aesthetically pleasing stalls to display their exciting products but mainly, to create stands that welcomed all visitors and show case what each stall and company had to offer the customer, the browser and the wonderer!

Over the course of the next 4 days, the Sheridan’s staff (along with help from Jess and Dave Murphy at Kai, Siochfradha from Rúa and Donal from Fallon & Byrne) that travelled over to Bra, worked  and laughed together in shifts to man the Sheridans Cheese stall and the Presidium stand, which was dedicated to raw milk Irish cheeses. Things were hectic, busy, confusing with the Italian language barrier ( we tried to muster few phrases) and the hours flew by. In between shifts, we were free to take walks around the town and take in the sights and visit all the other stands and get to meet some of the people who’s products we stock like Marcel Petit Comtés’ Mr Goux, who gave us a fantastic talk on the work and special attention that goes into selecting only the finest Comté for each customer and how they know by taste what each customer really wants in their Comté wheel! Sheridans have a special and old connection with the Cravero family who supply our Parmesan and they hail from Bra itself. We got a chance as a group to visit the family home and the business which is part of their amazing home. Snuggled down a narrow, high walled drive, lies the big iron gates that holds the walls that mind our beloved Parmesan! We walked into the warehouse where the parmesan live and age, and the sweet and milky smell of the wheels hit us immediately. We all stood around with our eyes wide with admiration and our mouths watering with the scent of the quality and thought of fresh parmesan shaves falling onto a bowl of hot fresh pasta! Outside, the view onto the surrounding valleys was breathtaking! clear blue skies, warm and breezy weather and to share this with a group of like minded happy and excited cheese fanatic’s – you could not have asked for a better place to be in that moment!

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The town invites everyone with open arms. Gorgeous coffee available at every turn, patisserie shops full to the brim with special cakes and treats, big fluffy sheets of focaccia bread with cheese, marrinara and olives wafting out luring you in at counters, happy smiling and kind people, al fresco dining with glasses of the finest prosecco and a view of the world walking by and the most important place of all, Café Converso! Situated at the end of a long cobbled street with an old, comforting and large cream coloured church as its neighbour, lies one of the best things about this town besides its people and its love of cheese. Café Converso is like your own kitchen. A very well manned kitchen I might add with a side entrance that supplies you with the finest Italian chocolates and treats to take home if you wish. You walk in the door and Federico opens his arms and welcomes you like an old friend. Shouts of drinks are made for you and a little plate of special snacks are brought with every drink order. You look to your left and find a man with a parma ham and a plate of ripe gorgonzola handing out tastes. People laughing, singing, chatting and all delighted to be included into the cosy little piece of italian hospitality and warm hearted welcomes.

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This festival is a prime example of what people can do when they work together for something beyond themselves. Slow Food – attention to detail – like minded people – creativity – caring attentively to the product and the people behind the product is the ethos of this festival. The passion and care that went into even the dedicated rubbish police they had sitting at every bin exemplifies the whole thought logic behind trying to create a place and event like this, that spreads joy and that would stimulate interests in those who may not have even thought about the man who turns the wheel of parmesan that eventually becomes the shaves of cheese that melt into his hot pasta bowl in Galway, a thousand miles away from where the cheese began life. This town is a faint reminder of something sometimes missing in our own country. The happiness, the kindness, the smiles, the chat, the atmosphere – you cant fake that. You don’t need to have money to create this – it exists places still in the world – where people enjoy having people visit if only to have a chat about about the taste of a cheese over a glass of wine.  Sheridans is a little slice of this in Ireland. Of course, Sheridans made it possible to bring their Irish family to meet their extended Italian family and we were treated like such. I am so glad I got to travel with Sheridans to see the spectacular and amazing festival of CHEESE in Bra this year. I cannot recommend a visit of this kind to anyone more – foodies or not – festival or not – Bra is a sight to behold. Go visit, sit down with a glass of wine made in the hills around you, sample the cheese that lives up the road, soak up the sun that shines gladly on you, take in the sound of happy, smiling people and enjoy the simple and special things that are still left for you in the world.

Tonarelli

Irish Smoked Fish Tonnarelli

Tonarelli

If unlike me you love your seafood, there is a lovely pasta dish that I really enjoy! You just sauté thin slices of fennel with a clove of garlic and thin slices of onions, a glass of dried white wine. Crumble a bit of smoked fish and pour a jar of passata. Let it simmer for 30 minutes, gently, and serve with loads of basil leaves and Tonnarelli pasta (black spaghetti). Try the wines of the week Sauvignon Blanc or Austrian Pinot Noir for this dish, red or white, you’ll be in friendly territory!

– Franck

The creative side of our Dublin shop

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Here is a glimpse of the sumptuous spread we prepared for a launch in a Dublin library this week, similar to what we regularly prepare for various launches, receptions & meetings.
We all enjoy the creative side of our work in Anne St and the feel that good food should be a multi-sensorial treat – you feast with your eyes as much as your taste buds!
These featured are some examples of what we often prepare for launches, receptions and meetings.
We use cheeses, meats, fish and antipasti from our shop based on breads from Tartine Bakery in Swords and of course, our own Sheridans Cracker range.
We have also teamed up with other quality food suppliers such as Michelle Darmody’s brilliant Cake Café, Murphys Ice cream, Cookies of Character, Skelligs and O’Conaills Chocolates to offer a full sweet & savoury spread on for larger scale events.
Wines from the Grapecircus @ Sheridans range are available for catering events and we can also provide staff if required. It’s as delicious and hassle-free a catering offering as you could imagine!

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The exciting Knockdrinna Meadow

At our Waterford location with our counter in Ardkeen Store, we are especially lucky to be surrounded by a number of local cheesemakers including Triskel, Knockanore, Knockalara and Knockdrinna.
This past couple of weeks we’ve all been particularly excited about the amazing Knockdrinna Meadow Sheep’s milk cheese made by Kilkenny based Helen Finnegan. This semi-hard cheese has a lightly washed rind, which add’s to the earthy flavour of the cheese and results in a beautiful pinky orangey hue on the outside of the cheese. The interior of the cheese is a beautiul creamy white colour, and whilst the earthy smell carries through on to the pallet, there is also a sweetness, almost fudge like to the flavour of the cheese. Aromas and tastes of hay also intermingle with the very definite milky delicate flavours. We’re always pleased to promote our local cheese makers – but Helen has made our job very easy with this fantastic example of an Irish farmhouse sheep’s milk cheese.

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Leopardstown Market

There’s a great variety of stalls at the Leopardstown market on a Friday these days. If you’re food shopping for the week, as well as our lovely range of cheeses, there’s a choice of two organic veg growers, Jenny McNally and Dennis Healy. There’s organic meat from Coolanowle and spanking fresh fish from Out of the Blue to tempt you also. There’s seasonal berries and master bakers, including the recent addition of tasty gluten free cakes. If you work in Sandyford, why not pop across for a bite of lunch. Choose from falafel, thai or a delicious pie or quiche from the Gourmet Grub Bakery. Runs every Friday from 9.30-2.30, with ample customer parking.

Strawberry and Mascarpone tart

Recipe of the week: Strawberry and Mascarpone tart

Strawberry and Mascarpone tart

This wonderful summer keeps giving and giving and I am running out of fresh ideas to accommodate all the strawberries we’ve had! But why should I feel under this grotesque unnecessary pressure says you? Well maybe because it is so unprecedented that I want to make the most of what nature gives, that I know too well that it will be over too soon at least for another year. As a child, a dusting of sugar and Chantilly cream was the only way, in the early “noughties”, who hasn’t been given a plate of minimalist art nouveau “Strawberries and crushed meringues” with crème fraiche (yes Seamus, I am talking about you) as now, I really enjoy them at breakfast with yogurt and honey. Making the top 20 of antioxidants it is also famously known for its high vitamin c content. All in all, the goodie two shoes of the health world , so, the other day, when I came across a strawberry and mascarpone tart recipe, I wanted to know more, cross over to the dark side of the fork… It was with no regrets, a real treat, with a big dollop of Burke’s Honeycomb ice cream

You’ll need:

• 1 sheet of short crust pastry
• 250g Mascarpone cheese
• 130 g of sugar
• 1 vanilla pod
• 50g ground almonds
• 1 handful of strawberries
• 4 eggs
• 5cl of lemon juice

How to:

Beat the eggs and the sugar together, add the almond and fold in the mascarpone without any fuss. Cut the vanilla in half lengthways and scrape the seeds into the mix. Add the lemon juice. Spread the sheet of shortcrust on a buttered and floured tart dish, pour the mix in the middle and place halved strawberries here and there. Bake at 180c for 25min but check with a knife that it is cooked, just in case.

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