Camembert-style with a medium flavour Irish Farmhouse cheese. Pasteurised cow’s milk. It has a white mould rind. Pale yellow paste, generally with some chalkiness at the centre, when fully ripened the paste is soft and smooth. The flavour is creamy and buttery with hints of grass, flowers and wet pastures with distinguishable white mushroom notes coming through on the finish. Cooleeney is fully mature at 8-10 weeks. It goes well with sparking wines such as Beaujolais and is an excellent cheese for cooking, try it deep fried with a fig and port sauce.
Breda and Pat Maher have been making Cooleeney on their farm outside Thurles since 1986. The Maher’s make both raw milk and pasteurized Cooleeney from their own herd of pedigree Fresians. Like so many other Irish cheese makers an abundance of milk was what first tempted Breda Maher into cheese production. She took a course in cheesemaking at UCC and went into production about two years later Breda chose to make a soft cheese because the market was full of hard cheeses.
In 2005, we persuaded Breda to start maturing up Cooleeney specially for us and the difference in both the quality and texture of the cheese is simply staggering. Most of the Cooleeney on the market is manufactured, given a short maturation period, packaged and sent out with a relatively long shelf life, supposedly allowing the cheese to mature on in cold storage. This is what the supermarkets want and what Breda has to do if she is going to supply them. By contrast the Cooleeney Breda is now supplying to us in Sheridans is fully matured on the shelves of the ripening rooms in Thurles before being packaged. It is then sent out more or less fully mature. It has a shorter shelf life and deteriorates quickly, however the cheeses are soft textured, ripe and ready to eat when we get them, which makes a huge difference. It is great to see how a little extra care can really help a cheese fulfill its true potential.