Friday, January 6, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Irish Sweet Cheddar Cheese

     I found this one in the international cheese section of my local Shop-Rite grocery.  It kind of caught my eye for two reasons:  One, I can't recall ever eating an Irish cheese, and two, although I've had my share of of cheddar (some might say way more than my share), I don't think I've ever had any that was "sweet."  Usually if there is any description of the cheddar it's how sharp it is.  "Sharp" refers to how strong, and how tangy the cheese is, and it's tied to how long the cheese was aged.  It seems like the official stats are slightly nebulous, but in general a "mild" cheddar is aged up to about 3-6 months, a "sharp" for 6-12 months, an "extra sharp" for 12-24 months, a "premium" for 2-5 years, and a "super sharp" for 6 years or more.  I couldn't find out how long the sweet cheddar I got was aged, but I can only assume less than 6 months, making it a "mild."
    The company that made the cheese I picked up was Kerrygold, based in Ireland.  Kerrygold is in turn owned by Ornua (nee The Irish Dairy Board).  Their website and the cheese wrapper, seems quite proud that their dairy products come from small family farms (with an average cow herd size of 60), from grass-fed cows, which receive no artificial growth hormones.  The package also says it's suitable for vegetarians, so evidently they use an atypical type of rennet to make their cheeses.  So, in short, even your hippie friends will probably approve of Kerrygold products (vegans excepted, I guess).
     Kerrygold makes various kinds of butter, and other kinds of cheese.  The other cheese types are Dubliner cheese, aged cheddar, reserve cheddar, Blarney Castle cheese (said to be a Dutch gouda style), Swiss cheese, Irish stout cheese (with the actual beer in it), aged cheddar with (literal) whiskey in it, and Cashel blue farmhouse cheese.  Recently they've also branched out a bit, and introduced an Irish cream liqueur (whiskey, cream, and chocolate) to battle Bailey's.
     The type I tried is called Skellig, named after a group of islands off Ireland's coast.  These islands had an early monastery, and are currently home to large quantities of gannets and puffins.  (It's also a UNESCO World Heritage site.)  I bought a 7 ounce (198 gram) package, which cost about $5, as I remember.  The website extolled the cheese's alleged "creamy texture, distinct nuttiness, and sweet apple notes," and "butterscotch-like sweetness."  Reportedly it's also good for cooking, or made into a sauce.  I, of course, chose to eat the cheese uncooked, both plain and on a cracker.  Well, my sort-of- quest to find a cheese I don't like continues.  I really enjoyed the Skellig.  It was a bit milder than most cheddars I've had, but I didn't taste nuts, or apples, or butterscotch or anything.  Maybe my pallet is unrefined.  But, most importantly, it was very good.
     So, all in all, I heartily recommend this one.  I'll be looking to try the other Kerrygold cheeses, too.  As the Irish Gaelic speakers say as a toast, "Slainte!"  Thanks to the Kerrygold website and "Million Dollar Baby," I know now two Gaelic words/phrases.

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