Do you have a bucket list? I do. Actually, I have a bucket of cheese list- a list of cheeses I keep in my iphone in hopes that someday, somewhere, that cheese and I will meet. The cheeses on this secret list of mine have frustrated me-they have come to my attention as ones that I must have, but for one reason or another I have been denied them. There is really nothing as satisfying for me as discovering and tasting one of these cheeses, these ultimate cheeses. Today;s cheese is one of those scared cheeses on my bucket list, at last! Today I have the great satisfaction to bring you the elusive Irish Cashel Blue.
Cashel Blue has been on my cheese bucket list for months, yet I can’t seem to find it anywhere in Canada. I’m not sure if it’s a distribution thing or just bad luck on my part, but the other day a good friend and I popped over the border to the USA to visit Trader Joe’s (and their cheese) and lo and behold-Cashel Blue. Now I recognize that blue cheese isn’t a taste for everyone-which is shame-but it is one that I have acquired, and the rapturous reviews of this one have had my tongue aching for a sample.
Cashel Blue is one of Ireland’s best beloved blues. It is made by the Grubb family at Beechmount farm with milk from their own herd of pedigree British Friesian cattle. In the 1930s, Samuel and Phyllis Grubb bought Beechmount House and its farm. By the 1950s they were producing dairy-based products (butter and potted cream). In 1978 their son, Louis took over the running of the farm and set about establishing a dairy herd. His wife, Jane who worked as a chef before marrying started experimenting with different styles of cheeses. Jane eventually created Cashel Blue in1984, and this cheese quickly grew in popularity as a milder alternative to Stilton cheese. Cashel Blue does use the Penicillium roqueforti mould we have seen before in cheeses such as Stilton and Roquefort. If you have been reading this blog, you may recall that I am mad for Stilton and ho-hum for Roqefort, so it will be interesting to see where this cheese lands.
Cashel Blue is made with the pasteurized cow’s milk from a single herd. Accordingly, this is one of those cheeses where terroir is a significant factor. Depending on what was going on in the pasture a couple of months ago, the taste of the cheese should shift around accordingly. Cashel Blue is still hand-made on the farm, which I do adore. The mould is introduced right at the beginning of the cheese-making, and then later encouraged to grow when the cheeses are pierced. As Cashel Blue is a semi-soft cheese ,it is not pressed and is allowed to drain naturally. Salt is only added at the final stage when the cheese is dried. The cheese spends the next couple of weeks in a cheese cave doing its cheese-magic-mould thing, and is ready to eat about 2 months later, although it is typically sold somewhere in the 4-6 month range of age.
My painfully thin wedge of Cashel Blue has made a long journey from Ireland, then to the USA and then finally to me. An Irish Traveller! It has a gold foil wrap on the outside. When I peel this back it exposes a creamy yellow looking cheese, shot through with black and green strips of mould as well as naturally occurring mould splotches. It’s not quite as riddled with mould as some of the other Blues I have sampled this one is more subtle to the eye. The smell is delightful to my nose, it reminds me of cattle, wilderness and vomit (and I mean that in the best way possible.) I simply cannot forget that all Roquefort type cheeses do contain the same enzyme as vomit, and this actually attracts me to them, rather than repelling. There is something special about that enzyme in a cheese, it’s almost pre-digested for me!
I don’t want to tell the truth. I want to say that this is the best blue ever, it was on my Cheese bucket list-after all. But. But. It’s just not really doing it for me. It is a smooth wonderfully creamy blue. It’s not overpowering or anything, it’s well-crafted-but there’s something missing here for me, it’s that little hint of sweet that I find in Stilton and not in Cashel Blue. Yes, I could eat it with a slice of pear and that might address the whole sweet issue, but I find this cheese really has two notes only, mould and salt. While I love mould and salt, my palate also wants sweet. I’m difficult! I do appreciate how Cashel Blue is relatively “mild” not everyone can handle a full strength Blue-this one might be a good “starter blue” for the faint of taste-buds, but for me, I’ll take a pass. Sigh. This one’s not really my slice of cheese.