Knockdrinna Meadow Sheeps Cheese

Knockdrinna Meadow Sheeps Cheese - Helen FinneganHelen Finnegan’s wonderful sheeps’ cheese has attracted much praise – most recently earning one of just five of the Irish Food Writers Guild Food Awards.

Having long yearned to do something on her husband Robert’s family farm located bang in the middle of the village of Stoneyford, Co. Kilkenny, Helen began making cheese in the back kitchen six years ago, as an experiment, using goats milk from a neighbour; as each one tasted better than the last, she became hooked.

She began winning industry awards and is now highly regarded as a farm cheesemaker producing a variety of cheeses – and it was in response to consumer demand that she began making Knockdrinna Farmhouse Sheeps Cheese.

Made from March to October (with milk from a previous Guild award winner Henry Clifton-Browne’s flock) this is a distinctive cheese with a golden rind produced by washing three times a week with organic white wine, which Helen believes is a major factor in the development of the flavour.

Knockdrinna CheesesAcidic when young, a caramel flavour gradually emerges and, by 4-6 months, when it is probably at its best, a characteristic robust, sweeter earthiness develops. Knockdrinna cheeses are made on farm in a purpose-built unit inserted into an old farm building that holds the temperature and humidity in the curing rooms really well.

Farmers’ markets led to speciality shops like Sheridan’s and, remarkably soon, to winning Irish and UK cheese competitions and providing employment for four people. Long term viability was an issue. With no wish to expand further and go the supermarket route, another old stone building was converted into a farm shop, open five days a week. The whey is used to feed their own free-range pigs and flavour their pork and dry-cured bacon.

The cheeses are available in farmer’s markets, specialist Delis, Sheridans and from the Finnegan’s own farm shop. [Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese, Stoneyford, Kilkenny. Tel: 056 7728446; ]

© Recipe created by Derry Clarke, L'Ecrivain, for the 2010 Irish Food Writers Guild Food Awards

Knockdrinna Meadow Sheeps Cheese rarebit with port & pear pureeKnockdrinna Meadow sheeps cheese, rarebit with port & pear purée and candied pecans

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