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 Durrus, Bellingham Blue, Triskel and Mount Callan are all most definitely Irish Farmhouse Cheese, enjoy them this month and enjoy farmhouse cheese every month.