If there’s one Irish cheese that seems to deserve an automatic place on any St Patrick’s Day platter, it may well be this one. Second out of the Pong Cheese Irish Selection Box I was sent to review is Cashel Blue, which is named after the ‘Rock of Cashel’, the medieval castle where St Patrick is said to have started converting the pagan Irish to Christianity, using the three-leafed shamrock as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity.
Cashel Blue is a semi-soft, pasteurised, cow’s milk cheese originally made by Jane and Louis Grubb and now produced by their daughter Sarah and her husband Sergio, in County Tipperary, Ireland. Jane and Louis began making cheese in 1980, after Louis took over the family farm and invested in a herd of dairy cows. Part of the cheese-making resurgence of the time in the country, Jane took some classes and began experimenting with recipes, selling the results at local markets. In 1984, Cashel Blue made its debut as Ireland’s first blue cheese. The family were quick to learn about the power of blue cheese when they were warned not to continue ageing their cheeses in the cellar of their farmhouse in case the mould spread and caused structural damage!
Much of the milk for Cashel Blue comes from their own pedigree herd of Friesians. The milk is pasteurised and a starter culture is added, followed by Penicillium Roqueforti powder (to encourage the growth of mould) and vegetarian rennet. An hour later, the curd has formed and the cheesemaker is able to cut through it with a cheese harp, to separate the curds from the whey. The curds are then gently turned by hand until they are firm enough to transfer into moulds, where they drain further.
On the third day of the make, the cheeses are removed from their moulds and salted and, on the following day, each cheese is pierced with stainless steel needles to allow the oxygen to enter; this will encourage the spider’s web creep of blue mould. The cheeses are then sent to a ‘cave’ where they age, typically for 2-3 months. Longer ageing, up to six months, will produce a wilder, spicier profile.
This is my kind of blue cheese. As you can see in the photo above, it has little pockets of gritty blue, like you get in Roquefort. It’s a cheese with a lot of blueing present but, compared to say, Stilton, it has a much sweeter, creamier flavour. There’s something like root vegetables in there, again sweet, like roasted parsnips. I don’t know the age of my piece but suspect it’s passing the three month mark as there’s the faintest kick to it. If it gets its place on the St Patrick’s cheeseboard because of the history of its name, it certainly keeps its spot when it comes to flavour.
Disclosure: I was sent an Irish Selection Box by Pong Cheese for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own.