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:: Sheridan's Cheesemongers Christmas Cheeseboard Selection!

The lovely Elisabeth Ryan from Sheridans has passed me on some interesting notes on each of the cheeses she suggested for the Christmas cheese board the other day. To be honest I have just discovered an appreciation for cheese myself and I am finding this latest food discovery absolutely fascinating, there is so many back stories to each one, so have a quick read!


Alongside Cheddar, Stilton is the best known of all English cheeses. Unlike Cheddar, however, Stilton’s name protected status has prevented the proliferation of imitators which has blighted the image of cheddar as a quality, artisanal cheese. The Colston Bassett Dairy stands
out amongst these producers for the consistently high quality of its Stilton, if Stilton is the King of Cheeses then Colston Bassett are the Kings of Stilton Production. Colston Bassett Dairy was established as a local farmers cooperative in 1913 with the specific intention of making Stilton. The dairy makes every effort to keep all aspects of production as close to traditional practices as possible. It takes 72 litres of milk to make a standard 6.5kg wheel of Stilton. The milk is pasteurized upon arrival at the dairy- all Stilton has been pasteurized since 1990- it is then cooled to 30 degrees and put into vats. Here starter and penicillum roqueforti, the blue mould culture are added. Vegetarian rennet is then used to set the curds, which are cut an hour later. The mixture is then left to settle, thus allowing the curds to separate from the whey. The whey is drained off and the curds are ladled into trays for the night. The next day the curd is milled, salted, mixed and placed into hoops. The curd drains in the hoops for a further five days, after which time the curd has drained and solidified sufficiently to allow the cheese moulds (hoops) to be removed. The surface of the cheese is then rubbed over with a knife, thus smoothing the exterior and facilitating the later development of a natural rind. The cheese is then aged for 20 days to allow the surface to dry out. By the end of this period it is ready for the maturing room. The young Stilton is kept in the maturing room for around six weeks. Towards the end of this period the cheese is pierced with long stainless steel needles at regular intervals around its circumference. This allows air to come in contact with the penicillum roqueforti and lets the cheese develop its latent blue potential. As the blue culture reacts to air it is concentrated along the lines left by the needles, thus giving Stilton its characteristic blue veining. The cheeses are given a second piercing about a week later, at which point they are ready for sale.

Mont D'ore

Mont d’Or is a seasonal soft cheese from Franche-Comté, made using raw cow’s milk. The AOC stipulates that production must take place between 15th August and 15th March. The cheese may be sold from 10th September to 10th May. The milk used must come from Montbeliard and Pie Rouge breeds
feeding exclusively on grass and hay at altitudes above 700m. No fermented
feed is permitted. The cheese must be encircled by a strip of spruce or pine
and packaged in a wooden box. During the summer months milk from these herds goes into the production of the region’s other great cheese, Comté, but as the season changes from Summer into Autumn changes take place in the milk being produced. The cattle are producing less milk, making the production of the huge Comté cheeses less viable (an average Comté wheel weighs 36kg). Equally the protein/ butterfat ratio of the milk has changed making it less suited to the production of hard cheese. Other considerations also have a role to play in the gradual changeover from Comté to Mont d’Or production. In the days before motorized transport as the weather deteriorated it became more difficult, and less worthwhile, to make the daily delivery of increasingly small amounts of milk to the fruitières, or cooperatives, where the Comté is made. So the farmers began to make smaller cheeses with which they could feed their families throughout the winter. Mont d’Or has a washed rind, covered in a dusting of white mould and a soft, near liquid cream-coloured paste, it is a wonderfully rich cheese. The aromas are of hay, mushrooms, earth and balsam, as both the box and the spruce impart wonderful woody flavour (the black colour which often occurs around the wood is perfectly normal and is no cause for alarm). On the palate the texture is unctuous and creamy. The flavours are of cream, wood and dry undergrowth with a slightly saline finish. Baked Mont d’Or is probably one of
the most hedonistic dishes there is, and is perfect for a winter’s night.


Montgomery’s Cheddar is generally regarded as the best of the unpasteurised, animal rennet cheddars still being made in England, in other words the best of the best. The cheese is made on the family farm near Cadbury in Somerset, with milk from the Montgomery’s own pedigree herd. Montgomery can be aged anywhere up to two years, although most people prefer it at somewhere between 12 and 18 months. Such is the demand for Montgomery Cheddar nowadays that a couple of years ago a shipment of the cheese was hijacked by thieves, who then made off with tens of thousands worth of Cheddar! Our own annual allocation of this sought after cheese is such that, in order to have ‘Monty’ in stock at Christmas we have to do without it for a couple of months beforehand. By the time the cheese finally arrives in December people are literally clamoring to get their hands on it.

Cashel Blue

Jane and Louis Grubb have been making Cashel Blue on their farm at Beechmount, near Fethard, in County Tipperary since 1984. Since then the
cheese has gone on to become the best known of all the Irish farmhouse
cheeses. Over half of all the milk used in the production of Cashel comes
from the Grubb’s own select herd of Holstein-Fresians, with the remainder
coming from carefully chosen local herds Cashel Blue is a natural-rind blue cow’s milk with a soft, yellow paste and a distinctive blue/green mould. In perfect condition, ie over about 14 weeks the cheese should show little, if any, chalkiness in the paste and should bulge ever so slightly near the rind. In terms of flavour Cashel provides a wonderful contrast between the slowly dissolving, creamy paste and a well rounded blue flavour. Cashel has none of the mouth-stinging harshness of certain blues, relying far more on finesse than sheer raw power. This classic Irish cheese is great with dessert wines, the Grubbs recommend Vin Santo. For a less upmarket treat, try it with a Braeburn apple. Cashel is also a wonderful cooking cheese.

Goat farmers, Tom and Lena Beggane, learnt cheesemaking from a Dutch
neighbour. They started making Clonmore at their farm in the heart of Cork Hurling country, Newtownshandrum, outside Charleville in the late 1990’s. Clonmore is handmade using milk from their tiny, free-range herd of goats. Cheesemakers like the Begganes are very much part of the new wave of lesser known, Irish cheesemakers who have broken away from the classic Irish wash-rind tradition to explore other cheesemaking styles. The Beggane’s goats are fortunate enough to enjoy some of the finest grazing in the heart of the Golden Vale. This pasture, more usually associated with dairy farming, lends wonderful richness to their cheese. Tom and Lena are also part of that dying breed of Irish cheesemakers who are still involved in the maintenance of their own herd, the majority of Irish farmhouse cheesemakers nowadays prefer to buy their milk from one or two well trusted local sources. The combination of farming and cheesemaking makes huge demands on both time and patience and anyone still willing to commit themselves wholeheartedly to both is to greatly be admired. The Begganes also run their herd in coincidence with the animal’s natural lactation cycle, allowing their herd to dry out at the end of November. They start making cheese again in March. Clonmore is a small, gouda-shaped cheese with a beige waxed exterior and a bone-white paste that is intermittently freckled with small holes. In good condition the cheese is milky on the palate with a mild tang that gently gives way to the unmistakable rounded, goaty finish that typifies Clonmore. This is a wonderful hard goat’s cheese. It is in no way sharp or soapy yet has a distinctive, smooth flavour. Clonmore is one of those cheeses that is better served below room temperature, left out in a warm room it has a tendency to become slightly oily. This is very much a lesser known Irish cheese and is not widely available, so sit back and enjoy this treasure.

Coolea is a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese made in the mountains of Coolea,
near Macroom on the Cork/Kerry border. It has been made there since 1980 when a Dutch woman, Helen Willems, began to make Dutch style cheese from the milk of her husband, Dick’s, herd. Nowadays Coolea is made by their son Dick Jnr. This is a classic Gouda style cheese made in traditional four and eight kilo rounds and is characterized by a yellow wax rind and a hard golden amber paste. It is now made from the milk of two neighbouring herd of Holsteins and Freisians. During the summer the Willems use milk from a herd about two miles from their farm, whilst during the winter they use milk from a different herd, feeding on pasture which is drier than most at that time. Dickie insists that all milk used comes from grass-fed animals as he says that silage can taints the flavour of the cheese as it ages. Since Coolea’s flavour is wholly reliant on the quality of the milk used Dickie is insistent that only the very best milk goes into making his cheese. He also uses traditional rennet because it makes far more age-worthy cheeses than those made using vegetarian rennets. Young Coolea is mild and semi firm, whilst older cheeses have a harder paste and a fuller, more robust flavour that continue to develop for over two years. At this stage of maturity the cheese takes on a sweet, almost toffee like flavour and a slight crystalline consistency, not dissimilar to that of mature Parmesan. Dickie’s preference is for wheels between 14-18 months. In 2006, Sheridans began experimenting with increasing the age profile, and now most of the Coolea we sell is between 20 months and 2 years. Amazingly, we still find that it has enough moisture to keep it lively on the palate, but is backed by a wonderfully deep finish and is just starting to become tacky in the mouth.

Jeffa Gil has been making Durrus at her hillside farmhouse in West Cork since 1979. Since then Durrus has gone on to become one of the most highly regarded of all the Irish farmhouse cheeses, collecting many prizes and accolades along the way, including Best Irish Cheese at the British Cheese Awards in 2003. West Cork has long been associated with milk production in Ireland, thus making it an ideal location for cheesemakers; whilst the wet, saline sea air makes the area eminently suited to washed rind production. Durrus is one of those true artisanal products which reflect the environment in which they are produced. It is unique in being the only Irish wash rind cheese which is still made using raw milk and traditional rennet and is one of the cheeses chosen as ambassador for the Slow Food Presidium on Irish Raw Cow’s Milk Cheese. Durrus’ success continues, it was named Supreme Champion at the IFEX in 1996 - for the second year running- and Jeffa was named best cheesemaker. Durrus is a semi-soft washed rind cheese made using raw cow’s milk from the neighboring Buckley and Lynch family’s herds. Jeffa’s cheese has a mottled pinkorange rind and a semi-firm creamy paste that has a tendency to bulge slightly when cut. The aroma is one of hay and wet soil, punctuated with a small dose of the pungency so characteristic of washed rind cheeses. The flavour is long, round and earthy with - depending on condition - a slight washed rind whiff. It is a flavour which is uniquely and unmistakably Durrus. This is what Jeffa describes as ‘a deep, complex flavour which captures the elemental nature of this part of Ireland.’ Jeffa reckons the cheese is best at around 6 weeks old and is not overly affected by seasonality because the milk comes from staggered breeding. Durrus is one of the consistently great Irish farmhouse cheeses. Try it on toast, in place of raclette or with pears.

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:: Sheridan's Cheesemongers Christmas Cheeseboard Selection! + sheridans cheesemongers