Friday, January 4, 2013

The perfect Cheese Board

I was recently asked to be part of a radio magazine and to cover all food related things of the show. You can imagine that I jumped at the opportunity. CorkCity FM is a community radio and works out of the Douglas Shopping Centre. The people involved are just too nice and everyone works for free.

Anyhow, for tomorrow's show I was asked to cover all things cheese - especially local cheese. And aren't we just too lucky with the offerings in our beautiful county. We have Durrus, Gubbeen, Desmond, Hegarty to name just a few. Ireland has some of the worlds best cheesemakers and Irish cheeses cubed up prizes and awards everywhere. You might notice towards the end of this post that cheese is one of my favourite subjects to talk about.

Cheese isn't difficult to make but it is difficult to mature the cheese. So many factors influence the cheese - and you have only limited control on how the cheese will turn out (unless you have a state of the art maturing facility) - so artisan cheesemakers do deserve the upmost respect for their work.

Some cheese are exclusive to a special region/country like Parmesan to Italy, Manchego to Spain, Camenbert to France etc. and I love them all but Irish cheeses have that something special - the love, milk and special flair. Our cows and goats are fed on succulent green pastures and the milk is the best milk you can get. I personally love raw milk cheeses as I believe it gives the cheese a depth that can't be achieved on pasteurized milk - but that is a complete different discussion.

Back to the title - the perfect cheese board: But first a question - when do you serve the cheese board, before or after dessert. The French say before dessert as it cleanses the palate for the dessert wine to come while the English have it after to enjoy it with a lovely rich port they are so famous for. In my humble opinion, a cheese board is a course best served when ever it well pleases you. I love to have a cheese board with Mr T instead of supper. Fresh baked bread and a cheese board with grapes and relishes - the perfect Saturday night stay in treat.

But which cheeses should you use - it depends if you have it just for yourself or as part of a dinner party. It is of course easier if it is just for you as you know your own taste and can be a greedy eater but when you have to cater for a few people it can be more difficult. As a thumb rule, a board should have at least one goats cheese, semi hard cheese, blue cheese, camenbert/brie style cheese and of course a mature cheddar.  Let's say, we are going for an entire Irish board - see my favourite selection below:

  • Ardagh Castle Goats Cheese - made with raw milk, natural rind, semi-firm, vegetarian rennet
  • Beal Raw Milk Cheddar - made with milk from own herd, animal rennet, matured for at least 6 months
  • Knockalara Sheep Cheese, pasteurized milk, vegetarian rennet, matured between 10 days and 5 months
  • Milleens - pasteurized cows milk, animal rennet, matured between 4 - 12 weeks
  • Bellingham Blue - raw cows milk, vegetarian rennet, matured for at least 4 months
I like to serve homemade tomato relish, beetroot chutney, freshly made bread and crackers - a perfect snack for a night in front of the fire. Make sure to remove the cheeses at least 30 minutes from the fridge to get the best flavour from the cheeses. 

If you like to learn more about cheese, I can recommend this wonderful book - a labour of love by Glynn Anderson and John McLoughlin.

Bon Appetit with your very own cheese board

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