March arrives in Wisconsin bearing a number of things—mud, hopes of warmth and green, and St. Patrick’s Day among them. The celebration of Ireland’s patron saint serves as an easy excuse to tip a few, though, as we all know, Wisconsinites need no reason to drink beer. And, as any true Wisconsinite knows, beer calls for cheese. It’s here that we find a unique connection between America’s Dairyland and The Shamrock Shore.
Kerrygold Dairy of Cork is deservedly famous the world over for the daffodil-yellow Irish creamery butter bearing its name and has also made inroads into the cheese market with a few prominent offerings, the best-known of which is Dubliner. Dubliner, as the premier cheese in Kerrygold’s brand is probably the best-known Irish cheese in America. But did you know that it was created by the Director of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research—almost by accident?
Cork native Dr. John Lucey developed a cheese he called Araglen in 1990, as part of an experiment with alternative methods of making cheese included in his PhD work in Ireland. The experimentation wasn’t geared to finding a commercially viable cheese, but upon tasting the results and repeating the method to verify that it would yield consistent results, he approached Kerrygold with what we now know as Dubliner cheese—and the rest, as they say, is history. Much has been made of the fact that neither the creator of the recipe nor the manufacturer of the cheese hails from Dublin. Lucey explained in a 2013 NPR interview with Ira Flatow that the cheese was named to evoke the iconic Irish traditional band The Dubliners. Indeed, though the formula is very new, the packaging and marketing indicate strongly the bid it makes as a culinary token of traditional Irish culture.
Cahill’s Porter Cheese
Just up the road from Cork, in Limerick, Dave and Marion Cahill have been making Cahill’s Porter Cheese since the early 1980s and we will be bringing this one back to herald the arrival of spring and St. Paddy’s Day. Using high-quality Irish cheddar, The Cahills developed a style of embedding nuggets of the basic cheddar into a blanket of cheese flavored highly with Irish porter. They’ve used other flavors such as elderberry as well, but porter remains the most popular. Look for it on our shelves in March and enjoy it with a slice of our barmbrack and a pint of plain.
As is the case with many cheeses in Europe’s mainland, Irish cheeses are usually enjoyed as a course unto themselves rather than as a condiment or ingredient. Just as you would with any really good cheese, let them come up to room temperature for an hour or so for best flavor. And not least, for the full terroir (to borrow a French word) of Ireland, get within range of an open fire, get your hands on a slice or three of wholemeal Irish brown bread and butter it liberally before eating with cheese. That’s right, butter and cheese. Here’s a simple recipe for brown bread to get you set up.
- Slán agus beannacht
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup whole oats
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1 large egg
Directions: Preheat the oven to 375° and butter a standard bread loaf pan of glass, metal or earthenware.
Whisk all dry ingredients except oats together and beat the egg lightly into the buttermilk. Stir the wet mixture into the dry and mix well, until a shaggy mass forms and pulls away slightly from the bowl. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead just long enough to get a smooth consistency. Roll in the oats and press intothe buttered pan. Bake about 45-50 minutes or until it has risen slightly over the edge of the pan.