You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, especially if there is good Irish cheese on the menu.
Try these three Irish beauties and allow them to Riverdance over your taste buds — yep, I just wrote that.
Irish cheeses are rolling in this time of year. There is no better time to take advantage. Not only do they have cool Irish-sounding names, they also taste really good.
There is Coolea, an appealing gouda-like cheese from the village of the same name in County Cork. The cheese comes in 15-pound wheels covered in yellow Plasticote, giving it the look of a Dutch farmstead gouda.
But the similarities don’t end there. Although the recipe is based on gouda, it seems that Coolea takes on a more tangy, acidic flavor more at home in a cheddar then gouda. Despite that, it still retains some flavors of caramel and nuts like a well-made gouda. The texture is dense and nicely chewy. It is aged for a year, giving the cheese some complexity.
Gubbeen is a classic Irish washed-rind stinker. It has great meaty flavors and a nice creamy texture. But it can be a little challenging for some. If so, smoked Gubbeen gives you all the flavor without the stink — unless you find the smoke of oak to be stinky.
Gubbeen Farm is in West County Cork near Schull. The salty cool breezes blow over this coastal farm, helping create their distinctly Irish products. Gubbeen Farm is also well known for its smokehouse and the pork raised on the farm, so it is only right that it smokes some of its cheese. These little cheeses are gently smoked and then covered in black wax to hold in the smoke as they mature.
Cooleeney is an Irish soft-ripened cheese. What does that mean? Well, think brie or camembert. Cooleeney has a soft, fluffy, white mold rind with an aroma of mushrooms and earth. When it is young, the cheese is pleasantly chalky in the center with a lactic tang. As it ages, the cheese begins to break down into a nice creamy mass. The flavor moves into the realm of salty butter with an earthy background.
Cooleeney Farm is in County Tipperary near Thurles. Come see me for some Cooleeney and get yourself a loaf of Farm to Market’s Irish Soda Bread from your grocery store. At room temperature, the cheese is perfect to spread on the soda bread.
If you want to get into the spirit these, cheeses are the gateway to the rolling green fields of Ireland. That rich green grass comes through in every bite.
Lincoln Broadbooks loves cheese. He is one of the first cheesemongers in the United States and Canada to become an American Cheese Society-certified cheese professional. He is the manager and buyer for the Better Cheddar in Prairie Village. You can find him on Twitter @LincolnBbooks and on Instagram @lincycheese.