Cheese of the Month – May 2014

This month we have four lovely cheeses from Piedmont, Italy, three from the one producer. We have always had a great relationship with Italy in Sheridans and especially Piedmont. It was the first place outside of Ireland that we went ‘hunting’ cheeses. Seamus took a trip there only a year or two after we first set up our cheese stall and he found himself on a wonderful journey, making friends and discovering new foods like only Seamus can. We have always had more success though with foods other than cheese and with great wines of course. Apart from our Parmigiano Reggiano from Cravero and our Buffalo Mozzarella we have never been fully satisfied with our supply and have changed quite a few times down through the years.

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Cheese of the Month – April

This April our Cheeses of the Month come from an exciting collaboration between Sheridans Cheesemongers and Mons Fromager-Affineur.  We hatched the idea last year, over a cheeseboard when Elisabeth and Kevin visited me at Mons in London.  Together we have selected four lesser known French cheeses that are firm favourites at Mons.  The cheeses of the month are AbondancePersille du CezalierSt Felicien and Tomme Crayeuse (all available on Sheridans online shop individually or as part of our Cheese of the Month selection).  It was, however, impossible to narrow our selection down to four so be sure to look out for several other special Mons cheeses in the Sheridans shops throughout April.  The speedy among you will find a new season Provencal goat’s cheese for your Easter cheeseboard.

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Cheese of the Month – March

Spring is here and St Patrick’s Day is coming up. Every year there are rumblings about how many Ministers are travelling around the world for St Patricks Day and how it is all just a big Jolly. I can’t comment on the usefulness or otherwise of the Ministers’ trips but I am pretty proud of the Irish foods which are enjoyed at our embassies around the world for Patrick’s Day celebrations. Bord Bia and the Dept of Foreign Affairs came together a few years ago and decided to make sure that there was really good quality Irish food available in all of the Irish embassies that were hosting an event for our National day; what an opportunity to showcase the fantastic produce that comes from our farms and food producers. Sheridans were selected to work with Bord Bia in putting together easy to use selections that could be sent around the world; these packs include the best of Irish beef, cured pork, butter, smoked fish, chocolates among other great Irish foods. Of course there is a selection of farmhouse cheeses in there. So for this month’s Cheese of the month I thought it would be nice for you all to be eating the same cheeses this weekend as our embassies and their guests are enjoying from New York to Singapore. The four cheeses that we have selected this year are amongst the best of our cheeses and of consistently high quality; Cashel Blue Mature, Knockanore Smoked Cheddar, Durrus and Coolea extra Mature.

I am happy that these four cheeses can be presented in France or Italy and that we can be proud of what our Family Farms produce. There is lots of talk of the billions worth of Irish commodity foods being exported every year and there is no doubt that these exports are very positive for our farms and the economy as a whole. The exports of Irish Farmhouse cheese are tiny in comparison and if we look at the cold numbers we may think irrelevant. But exporting these great cheeses is not just about the tonnage; for one thing the number of jobs per tonne produced of farmhouse cheese is many multiples of those employed producing the equivalent of milk powder or commodity cheese. But there are even greater benefits; they themselves act as food ambassadors for our country. They represent our great heritage of small family farms; they show off the quality of our milk and the innovation of our crafts-people. When these cheeses are tasted at an event in Sidney or enjoyed by a family in Milan they tell promote all of our foods and our country as a whole. So whatever about the Ministers’ presence around the world this weekend I know our cheeses will be doing a great job to promote Ireland.

I hope you too enjoy these cheeses and are proud of our great food and farming heritage.

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit.

Kevin Sheridan

Cheese of the Month – February 2014

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Welcome to the Cheese of the Month for February 2014.

Valentine’s Day is coming up and of course food is the best way to anyone’s heart! And I don’t think there is any more romantic food than cheese.

We have put together four cheeses for you that we think will allow for a romantic dinner. Don’t worry; if you don’t have anyone special in your life at the moment; keep it all for yourself or share with a friend.

We have selected four really special and delicious cheeses. Three are from France, they know a thing or two about love allegedly and maybe cheese too; the fourth is Irish and we aren’t bad at either.

The first French cheese is Salers, a cheese we rarely have on our counters; I’m not sure why but it is quite similar to cheddar and our customers tend to like our cheddars to be cheddars! The flavour is more pungent and more fermented and also a little sweeter. The second is Bleu d’Auvergne, it is not a very complex blue but really really pleasant, it has a good intensity of flavour but without any of the over the top acidity that we often find in similar looking blues from other areas of the world or even more industrial Bleu d’Auvergnes. Our last French selection is Eppoisse washed with Chablis, it is everything we love about French cheese, oozy, aromatic (smelly) and with a beautifully balanced flavour. Our Irish cheese is the wonderful St Tola with Ash rind. We have such a fondness for St Tola at Sheridans for many reasons; Inagh farm where the original producers Meg and Derek had their farm were the first cheesemakers myself and Seamus ever visited, I have so many beautiful memories of kid goats, very thick porridge, tiger skin rugs and feeling at home with these wonderful people, sadly Derek passed away a number of years ago and production has been taken over by Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith. We were concerned how this would affect the quality of the cheese and for sure it changed a little but Siobhan also brought a lot to it. The invention of this little ash log has brought St Tola’s to a new level of spectacular; we are truly in love with this cheese

Try serving the cheeses with a fruit jelly such as quince or apple and I think a bottle of Prosecco would work really well to accompany them all.

Which ever way you chose to serve them or with whom ever you share them with I hope you enjoy the selection.

Thank you,

Kevin Sheridan

 

Cheese of the Month – January

by Kevin Sheridan

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Firstly I hope you all had a great Christmas and enjoyed some lovely food including some good cheeses; I am also hoping that there has just been a big enough gap for your appetite to have recovered and you will be able to enjoy four more cheeses.

We have four cheeses for you this month which we selected purely on the basis of which cheeses were in the best condition; January can be a difficult month for cheese as stocks are low after Christmas and new cheeses have often not reached us yet. I am really happy to say that three of these cheeses are Irish and one fantastic Swiss; it is a great sign of the continued development of Irish cheese.

We have chosen two cheeses from Helen Finnegan at Knockdrinna; Helen does not farm but buys in cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk from different farmers and makes a great variety of cheeses. We have selected Knockdrinna Meadow; Helen’s sheep’s milk cheese purely because it tastes so good! There is a particular flavour that develops in good mature sheep’s milk cheese, it is almost greasy but in a pleasant way like a really good lamb stock, and this flavour changes and intensifies from the centre of the cheese until just under the rind, I would encourage you to try. The second cheese from Helen is a new one, just released at the end of 2013; Brewer’s Gold. This is a collaboration with The Little Milk Company; a group of organic cow’s milk producers; and Irish craft Brewers who have provided the Beers and Ales to wash the rind. Washing the rind of a cheese with alcohol is not a new development, spirits, wines and beers have been used to wash the rinds of semi-soft cheeses for centuries. The general effect is firstly keeping the rind damp which allows the pinkish cultures to develop, the alcohol can help keep some unwanted moulds at bay and the particular drink can add a very subtle flavour.

The third cheese is another new cheese; Kearney Blue. This is the first cheese we have sold which comes from Northern Ireland, so that is a positive step. Paul McClean has been developing this new blue for several years and production is now in full swing but at on a very small scale which is the way Paul likes it. It is quite a little cheese, each one weighing just over 500g. The flavour is quite delicate and it has a great moist texture.

The final cheese is Etivaz from high in the Swiss Alps. One of the lovely things about eating cheese in winter is that the flavours and nutrition we receive are often captured from summer pastures by the cheese and released to us when we most need them. This is certainly the case with Etivaz; it is made only in summer months when the snows on the alpine slopes recede and allow wild and diverse pastures to flourish.

I hope you enjoy the cheeses we have selected for you and a happy and peaceful New Year to you all.

Cheese of the Month – December

by Kevin Sheridan

Christmas Cheese

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The winter feast has a long history in many cultures; a time to break from the darkness and cold and the lean times, to celebrate life and plenty almost in spite of the darkness. Central to this feast has always been the preserved foods stored from the summer and autumn, kept from rotting and decay through salting, drying, smoking and pickling. One of the most ancient and most successful ways of preserving the goodness of plentiful times is cheese. A wonderful and almost magical process that turns rich nutritious fresh liquid milk from lush summer pastures into a firm food that keeps its nutritional value and can be aged and matured for months and even years. Not only of such practical use; still better we have developed ways to make countless delicious varieties of this miracle food.  And so cheese is central to the winter feast; in Ireland we forgot for many generations but it has returned as part of a new Christmas tradition. Maybe twenty years ago only a ‘posh’ house would have some Stilton and maybe vintage Cheddar with Port after dinner on Christmas day but now so many households have their favourite cheeses and very often their favourite Irish cheeses.

Over the past few decades we have imported our cheese eating culture from mainly France and Italy and with that we have taken the idea that wine is the ‘correct’ accompaniment to cheese; there is no denying that good cheese and wine is a sublime combination but just as valid and often more to our taste in Ireland is some good beer with our cheese. And the lovely thing is we now have great beers in Ireland, lots of them; small breweries have sprung up across the country. These independent Irish owned enterprises concentrate on unique flavours and quality rather than marketing campaigns; instead of a Sancerre with your Brie de Meaux try a hoppy larger, rather than a Claret with your Crozier Blue try a Porter.

Every year I gather my favourite cheeses on the way out the door of the shop on Christmas Eve; looking forward to enjoying them after dinner the next day, I think only once did I manage to actually eat them at the Christmas dinner table, who has space after several delicious courses to start on a plate of cheese. Mostly they get brought out on Stephens’s day while watching a movie; and I have to say I love my Stephens day cheese feast!

The important thing to remember is good cheese is there to enjoy at any time. We have selected the four cheeses this month not on any particular theme but what we think are four of the best cheeses we can recommend; we have two Irish and a classic from both England and France. From Ireland we have Crozier blue and Dunmanus. Crozier is the sheep’s milk version of Ireland’s most famous cheese; Cashel Blue. It is quite similar but the sheep’s milk allows for a longer ripening and so a richer fuller flavour. The Dunmanus is quite a special cheese made by Jeffa Gill at Durrus Farmhouse; this cheese is made only with summer raw milk from the fields over looking Dunmanus Bay; it is semi-hard, similar to many very traditional European mountain Tommes, with a subtle earthy flavour that when given time reveals complex long flavours. From England we have Westcombe cheddar, one of the few cheddars still made traditionally; from raw Somerset milk and matured in a cloth and lard bandage rind on the farm; it is our favourite cheddar at the moment balancing a little sharpness and a lovely nutty flavour. The final cheese is Brie de Meaux from the Donge Family. Almost all Brie de Meaux is now made by huge food companies but this one is still family owned and run and you can tell from the quality. It has a richness and complexity of flavour that you just don’t get with other Bries, it is not overly strong but carries that lovely fresh mushroom aroma and sweet milk and cauliflower flavour.

We hope you enjoy your cheese this Christmas, hopefully you get to share it with loved ones; we are so proud that our cheeses have become part of so many Irish families Christmas tradition, we will raise a glass in thanks to all our customers on Christmas day.

Wine of the Month

Rosso di Monteraponi II MONTERAPONI

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It is an interesting contradiction that Tuscany, the region that in the collective imaginary more represent the traditional Italian wine, is the first region guilty of selling its soul to the standardisation of taste, with the indiscriminate use of “international” grapes to create wines to appeal the “international” palate.
Few high quality peaks, more often mundane wines lacking in character, always overpriced.

Banning the use in the Chianti blend of white grapes Trebbiano and Malvasia – traditionally used to soften the sometimes edgy Sangiovese – in favor of Merlot, Syrah and Co. was the last act of the regional globalisation.
So now, the Rosso di Monteraponi, one of most truly traditional Chiantis cannot be called Chianti anymore.
Another interesting contradiction.

Made on the hills of Radda in Chianti by the young Michele Braganti, this wine is a blend of organically grown Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino (the Chianti Triad of Grapes…) with a dash of Trebbiano and Malvasia.
It is also as naturally made as possible: spontaneus fermentation without added yeasts, no oak, no filtration. Sometimes less is better…

It’s full of red berried fruit, with hints of minerals, and with an enticing floral character due to the use of the white grapes. The palate is jucy, moderately tannic, fresh and the degree of “yumminness” is dagerously high.

Use it copiously with your steak, with roast beef, grilled lamb. It will work also with pasta dishes with tomato and meat sauce, or with semi hard cheeses and charcuterie. And considering the fast approaching festive season, it would a good option for your turkey or your glazed ham.
In fact, the Rosso di Monteraponi is an incredibly versatile wine.

Just a word of warning. It can be addictive.

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.