Monday 18 November 2019

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Cork Independent

Bia Sasta

Irish Cheese Awards hit Cork tonight

Thursday, 7th November, 2019 8:46am

Today is the day of the Irish Cheese Awards – check back next week for the winners of the night.

It was a big honour to have been trusted with the organization of the event and tonight it all comes nicely together (hopefully)!

Celebrating Irish cheeses and its makers doesn’t seem to come naturally to us compared to France who are proud of their vast number of cheeses and aren’t shy shouting out loud about them.

Here in Ireland, we take things rather calmly, as if we are trying to keep the cheeses here rather then sharing them! Having said that, almost 50 per cent of Irish cheesemakers actually export across the world - like Cashel Blue, which is widely available in far-flung countries like Canada.

A recent survey revealed that the Irish farmhouse cheese sector created over 660 jobs across Ireland, no small feat considering that this sector only produces about one per cent of all cheeses made in Ireland (including processed cheese).

A steep 30 per cent growth forecast is being predicted to be reached by 2025 with many new cheeses coming to the market.

This trend has resulted in three new classes at the Irish Cheese Awards including Best New Cheese, Best New Cheesemaker and Public Vote. For the first time ever, CAIS (Irish Farmhouse Cheesemaker Association) has invited the public to vote for their favourite cheeses and the winner of the Public Vote will also be announced tonight.

I was amazed that almost 1,000 votes came in with voters quoting how much they loved their local cheeses – a great sign that food lovers do indeed favourite locally produced food.

Irish cheese is loved across the globe with gold medals in many cheese competitions like the Artisan Cheese Awards in UK, World Cheese Awards and Fromage, the French cheese awards, proving the high standard of Irish cheese can compete on the international stage.

A few years back, I went to Edinburgh for a girl’s weekend and discovered a beautiful little cheese shop. The first five cheeses on the long counter from the entrance were Irish, which made me of course very happy.

A quick chat with the owner revealed that her customers loved the cheeses from the Emerald Isle because of the richness and creaminess – I nodded in full agreement.

The majority of Irish cheesemakers still use traditional methods.

A lot are still done by hand and looked after daily with love and care. They are turned, washed and placed carefully back in their maturing place to ensure the best flavours have time to develop.

Nothing is rushed – time and care is all you need to make outstanding cheese (next to milk, cultures and rennet of course).

So here is to all who make amazing cheeses, to all who love Irish cheeses and to chefs who create delicious dishes with them – Stuart Dardis of The Metropole Hotel has created a mouthwatering menu with winning cheeses from the 2017 awards.

If you are looking for me, I am the one drooling and munching away in the corner!

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