Christmas Fair

We’re holding our annual Christmas Fair at our Head Quarters in Co Meath

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on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th December – 10am to 6pm.

There will be loads of local craft and food stalls as well as all of Sheridan’s Cheeses, wines hampers and great foods. It’s a fun and festive way to do your Christmas shopping in a relaxed way – we’ll have mulled wine, and music too!

Among the producers (but list by no means exhaustive!) will be Clayotic, Bakelicious, Newgrange Gold Oils, What’s for Pudding, Floods Butchers, Richard Hogan Fruit & Veg, Rogan’s Smokehouse, Boyne Valley Blue Cheese, Cole’s Home Bakery, Kilconny House Preserves, Pollock’s Pickles, Annie’s Bakery, Paul Gallagher’s Handmade Cards, Scott Cider, Moran’s Jams, Delish Donuts, Cockagee Cider, Caulfield Boards, Klara Dechant Angel Stars, Jackie Gavin, Bridget’s Mantle Scincare.

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A week in Durrus

By Natasha Acosta

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My name is Natasha and for the past month I have been an Intern in Sheridans Cheesemongers store in Galway. I came to the beautiful island of Ireland this past January to learn about Irish Culture and about its cheese. As I started in the store I was introduced to the first Irish cheeses of Ireland. One of them being a fresh milk cheese called Durrus. A raw cow’s milk cheese with a hand washed rind. As this round semi-soft cheese melts in your mouth, the flavours of creamy butter develop more and more giving a hint of acidity that lingers in your mouth much like the humble characteristics of the land where it is made.

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For a week I was offered to visit the beautiful county of Cork, on the farm of one of the first female Irish Cheese producers of the 20th Century, Jeffa Gill the maker of Durrus Cheese.  As she took me in for a week I managed to see her dairy and work along with her and her team.  Every night Ms Gill receives milk from her neighbour to produce the morning cheeses. This is different to back in the day when she would have had her milk directly from her own cows originally.

As my first morning came, Jeffa heated the milk in a copper vat and added the rennet. As I watched her keep an eye on the Ph. balance and temperature, the milk magically firmed up to a consistency almost gelatin like. I was amazed how it only took minutes to coagulate. On came the cutting process, for which Jeffa uses a beautiful Swiss cutting harp. Cutting is a serious job, a two woman job from side to side and a lot of arm strength. As the women cut pieces of curd of about 1/2 oz. each, the cutting process was done. On to putting the curds into molds where the whey would drain off by its own weight and turn into cheese. This process led to an end result of about 280 cheeses. A batch of small Durrus “Óg” meaning young in Irish, and a 4-9 week more mature Durrus in a small and large wheel.

Then came cleaning, which is very important for cheese production and you could see it in Ms Gills Dairy, impeccable. As some cleaned I had the honour of turning the cheese. I was ecstatic for this job, really any, related to the production. Hand turning cheese seems like a simple task, but one that requires skill. You tilt the cheese in your hand as you hold the mold on the other and flip the cheese back into the mold. This keeps draining the weigh from the cheese and give it’s nice round shape. That would be done three times and a fourth held later at night. I would say turning is a very important part of cheesemaking, it allows proper drying of the cheese and air circulation. Consequently turning would be done through all the cheese process into the selling.

For the second day the previous days’ cheese where taken out of the mold and left to mature. While another day of cheese making took place. By now I felt like a pro with some experience. I could anticipate what was to be done next.

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For my third morning I got to brine the cheese where they are put in brine for 2 to 5 hours depending of the size and desired maturity of the cheese. Brine is basically a bath of salt and water, for added taste and limiting bacteria growth.

For the fourth day the brining was done for the second batch of made cheese while the first batch would be washed in a brine solution that would begin to develop the nice pinkish color on the rind. For my fifth morning came the curing of the cheese. Where it seems like a spa for the cheese to maintain the humidity, appearance and sanitation. While watching out for any particular development that happened through the last 4 days, this being molds, or bruises. The cheese is taken in one hand and with an exfoliating glove scrubbed. Here it will remain in the curing room, being turned each day for a couple of weeks, until it reaches its maturity and gets packed and sold.

While cheese was being made on my fifth day I managed to escape to see the making of Sheridan’s crackers. That lovely cheese companion, ranging from linseed to mixed flavours. The warehouse was about an hour from Durrus Village in a village called Lissavaird in West Cork. This small artisanal warehouse had ten employees, consisting of two shifts. As I arrived at 10:30 in the morning, greeted by the first shift bakers responsible for Sheridans crackers. These bakers had been in from 5:30 am in the morning; around the schedule time the batter is made. Around 10:30am they where in their second batch of cookies. After the preparation of the cracker dough, it gets separated, measured and rolled by hand into a 450g log. This l og is then laid into a dough sheeter into about a milimeter thick. It is rolled about 4 times each to get the desired thickness. After it is carried to a baking sheet to be cut by hand into small rectangular crackers, removing any disfigured crackers. Afterward they are placed in a 12-row trolley to be baked in a closet size industrial oven for around 20 to 25 min. After baking the crackers are to be packed and sealed. What I thought to be done by machine was a very artisanal part of the production. Packing the crackers into little plastic trays is done manually while weighing each tray to 120g to be exact. My job came to an end here. What was missing was the plastic wrap and seal, done through a machine held by another employee. As I left I thank them all for a wonderful day and left happy to understand the crackers are very much artisanal, nonetheless they seem perfect every time.

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After my day in the crackers warehouse I returned to the lovely Durrus village where I would say goodbye to the whole production of cheese, including Jeffa’s warmth. I travelled back to Galway with a head full of knowledge, a story of cheese making, the fresh Durrus and its beautiful landscapes. With this experience I get to share more with the customers at the store and I manage to transport myself both to Durrus and the crackers every time I have them.

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.