Hiya folks. Saint Patrick’s Day has passed, but there are still lots of things to celebrate about being Irish – having an insanely high tolerance for alcohol and a passport that’s greeted with a smile practically anywhere in the world notwithstanding. (As a sidebar, I love that Dublin Airport posted this notice on its Facebook earlier this week.) Being Irish also means a strong connection with dairy and cheese, stretching back into our myths and legends: like how, in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, Medb Queen of Connacht was killed with a piece of cheese hurled at her head by Furbaide, whose mother Medb had murdered years beforehand when she was pregnant on Furbaide. (Yeah… Celtic mythology is violent and weird. I like it.)
Along with St. Patrick, Brigid is the patron saint of Ireland; she was a pagan goddess long before Paddy brought Christianity here, but her cult was so strong that the Christian church had no choice but to adopt her as one of their saints. Brigid is one hell of a multitasker, being Goddess of everything from poetry to protection while acting as the patron of prophets, seers, blacksmiths and midwives, ruling the elements of water and fire, and being renowned as a healer. On top of all of this, Brigid is a Mother Goddess linked with agriculture and animal fertility, especially where cattle, milkmaids and milk are concerned. Milk was a vital food product to the early Celts and ‘White Brigid’s Day’ is one name for her feast day, during which milk was traditionally left out for her overnight, or poured on the ground as an offering to her.
Anyway, in honour of Paddy’s Day, here are my all-time top ten favourite Irish cheeses (but they’re not in order, because that would be far too stressful.)
- Bellingham Blue, a strong and funky blue
- Corleggy, a weird and wonderful hard goats’ cheese
- St. Tola, a beautifully soft organic goats’ cheese from the West Coast
- Wicklow Blue, a super-creamy blue Brie made in my home county
- Gubbeen, so unique, so buttery, and such a good melter
- Crozier Blue, the only sheeps’ milk blue in Ireland and a damn fine one at that
- Coolea Extra Mature, an aged gouda-style cheese that completely rocks my socks
- Mount Callan, hands-down the best Cheddar in Ireland
- Milleens, the mack-daddy of Irish cheese
- Killeen, an amazing goats’ gouda
And here are a two cheesy recipe ideas from Irish bloggers and chefs, using some of the stellar cheeses listed above. Either of them would be perfect for Paddy’s Day… both of them together would be absolutely genius.
- Donal Skehan’s Irish Blue Cheese Burgers with Soda Bread Baps, using Bellingham Blue
- The Daily Spud’s Crispy Potato Skins, using Coolea Extra Mature
Mmmm. If you’ll excuse me, I have some cooking and eating to do. Happy Paddy’s Day, everybody! If you have any cheesy Irish-themed recipes, or recipes involving Irish cheese, I would love to hear them, so leave a comment below.
[All photos featured via ShutterStock.]