Come and see how the cheese is made!
IN the decade since Wicklow Farmhouse Cheese first produced their popular Wicklow Blue cheese, their artisan operation at Curranstown, near Arklow, has grown beyond all expectations and with eight further varieties and more awards than they could shake a stick at, things have never been better.
The family-run operation headed up by John and Bernie Hempenstall at their dairy farm has garnered international acclaim most recently with Gold, Silver and Bronze accolades at the International Cheese Awards.
Hardly a year has gone by since 2005 that Wicklow Farmhouse Cheese hasn't won an award and it appears that demand is ever increasing for the Co. Wicklow product.
Two soft brie cheeses and six varieties of cheddar including nettle and chive and basil and garlic complete the range.
Dairy farming has been at the heart of the family business for the past 50 years and nine years ago, the cheese operation was established to supplement their income. John still milks his herd of 60 Freisian cows daily and commences the cheese making at 2.30a.m.
'It is still a small artisan operation and all the cheeses are handmade. We mature the cheddar varieties for six months and the softer cheeses like the St. Kevin Brie for four to five weeks. We have a staff of ten here and we soon hope to export more to the UK. We have a meeting in May in this regard,' explains John.
This year alone Hempenstalls have sent cheese to France, Brussels, Luxembourg and New Jersey to coincide with St. Patrick's Day when the demand for authentic Irish food produce is at its height every year.
Nothing is wasted either and buttermilk has become a popular by-product recently and is on sale in Tesco and Supervalu.
Wicklow Farmhouse Cheese has recently linked in with Bord Bia and will open its doors to the public this week as part of the Discover Farmhouse Cheese programme.
The plant will be open to the public on April 10 and April 11 between 1p.m. and 3.15p.m. but visits, while free of charge, must be book in advance online.
People are invited to come visit Wicklow Farmhouse Cheese and experience first-hand the story of farmhouse cheese from the dairy herds and commitment to taste to the quality and the small batches produced.
The Discover Farmhouse Cheese programme, an EU co-funded campaign organised by Bord Bia, is a celebration of farmhouse cheese in Ireland.
Bord Bia is encouraging the public to discover the unique character of the individual cheeses and how products are produced on the farm, the transparency of the supply chain, and the story of the makers behind the products.
For more information on locations and events, see the compnay's official website at www.DiscoverFarmhouseCheese.ie