Sunday 18 August 2019

Food news: Cáis Irish Cheese Awards

Katy McGuinness

Mustard Seed Christmas
Mustard Seed Christmas

Earlier this month, the biannual Cáis Irish Cheese Awards 2017 were announced at an event held at the Ballymaloe Grainstore in Co Cork. The awards celebrate the diverse range of Irish Farmhouse Cheeses produced across the country, and the list of winners is a handy reminder of some of our best cheeses and names to be looking out for in the shops.

The birth of Irish Farmhouse Cheese movement began in the late 1970s when a few enterprising dairy farmers commenced making farmhouse cheese. For at least 25 years before this, cheese-making in Ireland had been almost exclusively confined to large-scale factory production concentrating on cheddar production and mainly owned by the dairy cooperatives. Among the initial founding members were the Steele family who produce Milleens, the Willems family who produce Coolea, Jeffa Gill who produces Durrus, the Berridge family who produce Carrigbyrne, the Ferguson family who produce Gubbeen, the Brodie family who produce Boilie, the Maher family who produce Cooleeney and Bill Hogan and Sean Ferry who produce Gabriel and Desmond. At the outset, members agreed that in order to qualify as a farmhouse cheese, a cheese should be made by hand with milk from one source or a limited number of local sources, that production should be small and that only raw milk should be used. These days, raw milk cheeses form a separate category.

The 2017 Supreme Champion award went to Tom Burgess for his Mount Leinster Clothbound Coolattin Cheddar (pictured above), which was also named the Best Cow's Milk Cheese. The winner in the Goat's Cheese category was the St Tola Ash Log made by Inagh Farmhouse Cheese, while the best Other Milk Cheese went to Crozier Blue, a sheep's milk cheese produced by the Grubb family of Cashel Farmhouse cheese makers. Aldi's Specially Selected Tipperary Blue won the retail class. Other winners included Bluebell Falls Original, Ardsallagh's Cranberry Roulade, Gubbeen, Milleens, and Durrus Dote. The best new cheese was Ardsallagh's Corabbey-Romano. With so much choice, patriotic shoppers have no excuse for not buying Irish when it comes to cheese. For more information, visit



The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge in Ballingarry, Co Limerick, is hosting special Christmas evenings on Thursdays in December with a classic four-course dinner to include bubbles and canapes for €60 pp, with a B&B rate of €55 B&B pps. (069) 68508


Anyone looking to keep costs down for a Christmas get-together might consider Mayfield in Terenure, Dublin, now open for dinner five nights a week, where parties and large groups can enjoy free corkage with their dinner. The excellent Green Man Wines is close by. (01) 4926830

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