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A Cheesy Story

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

When I began making Knockdrinna Cheese in 2004, I knew very little about cheese. I just knew I liked it! I enjoyed trying out new cheese on holidays in France like most of us, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Over the years my knowledge grew and grew both from meeting other cheesemakers and attending cheese shows etc. Here are a few little gems that you might find interesting.

In our café today I have some of my favourite cheeses and here is the reason why:-

Coolatin Cheddar

Coolatin is made by Tom Burgess in Carlow. Tom makes cheese from his own herd and the process is a very pure form of cheese making, the milk comes in directly from the milking parlour into the cheese making room and the cheese is made while it is still warm at 32 degrees. Tom’s expertise is then in ripening the cheese which can take any thing from 12 to 24 months. Tom now has developed the expertise of cloth wrapping the cheese which is a very traditional cheddar making technique.

Crozier Blue and Shephard’s Store made by Cashel Blue

Crozier and Shepherds Store is made by Cashel Blue. Cashel Blue by Louis and Jane Grubb began their production in the 1970’s. Now Cashel Blue is Ireland’s largest farmhouse cheese producers and is now in the second generation and led by Sarah and her husband Sergio Furno.

There are only a handful of sheeps cheese producers in Ireland. While dairy sheep is a big part of many European’s agriculture system, it was never really a part of the Irish dairy system.

However, the Grubbs, innovators as always worked with their nephew Henry Clifton Brown who developed the sheep dairy herd to supply sheep’s milk for cheese. Henry has moved on to pastures further afield and the herd is now milked by PJ Pollard who supplies the sheep’s milk for cheese making.

First came Crozier Blue a delicious creamy sheep’s milk blue and later in order to deal with the rush of summer milk came Shephard’s Store, a sheep’s milk gouda with its delicious caramel and nutty flavours.


Durrus, made by Jeffa Gill and now in the second generation by her daughter Sarah. Jeffa started cheese making like the Grubbs in the 1970’s. Part of the trio of West Cork cheese making women, lead by Veronica Steel of Mileens, Jeffa and Jana Ferguson of Gubeen pioneered a range of rind washed cheeses, the first of their kind in Ireland. Rind washing or smearing means washing the outside of the cheese with a solution of salt and water and this process helps ripen the cheese and bring about that unique orange colour of rind washed cheeses and that amazing robust savoury flavour associated with Durris.

Comte and Gruyere

I love these cheeses and we don’t really have anything like them available at the moment in Ireland.

Comte is produced in the Jura Mountains in France It has an amazing set of rules associated with its production which make complete sense for trying to allow farmers to make a living from smaller farms in the mountains. We could learn a lot from them.

So the cheese has to be produced in a collective, not by one single farm. Can only be produced above a certain altitude and can only be produced between the months of March and September.

Makes a lot of sense, wonder why we don’t do something like that here!!!

Comte is judged at each stage of production and only the best quality cheese goes on for final maturing, so some is sold as young etc. The cheese we have on sale is 15 months old and has a really delicious range of flavours and textures. Worth a try


A similar style cheese to Comte made in the Swiss Alps, Gruyere has a delicious nutty flavour that lingers for a long time on the tongue.

Again its history is really interesting in that it developed in the mountains where a ready market place is not nearby. So the cheese is made in 30kg wheels that take a year plus to mature. Generally, they were made by farmers pooling their surplus milk to produce cheese and maturing that cheese for a long time until they could get to a market place, so made one summer and brought down the mountains to the market the following. This cheese along with Comte is low in salt as it's not that easy to get salt up the mountain, so they developed recipes that were naturally low in salt.

So now you have some of my cheese lore, there’s lots more if any of you are interested in coming and making cheese for a day with me here in Knockdrinna.

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