Irish Raw Milk Cheese Presidia
What is a Slow Food Presidium?
The Slow Food Presidia project began in 1999.
After cataloguing the first hundred products at risk of extinction (with the Ark of Taste Project), Slow Food took a step further, entering the world of the production process, to learn about the areas of origin, meet producers, promote their products, skills and knowledge. Over the years the Slow Food Presidia project has become one of the most effective instruments to put Slow Food’s politics on agriculture and biodiversity into practice.
A Slow Food Presidium protects:
A traditional product at risk of extinction (an Ark of Taste Product);
A traditional processing method at risk of extinction (in fishing, animal husbandry, food processing and farming);
A rural landscape or ecosystem at risk of extinction.
Ireland currently has one Presidia – Irish Raw Milk Cheese.
Texts naming and describing the cheeses once made in Ireland’s lush green pastures date back to the 8th century, but the descriptions and names are extremely vague. However, we know that Irish cheesemakers once produced a wide variety of cheeses: Tanag and Grus were hard pressed skim milk cheeses, Faiscre Grotha was a fresh type of pressed curd cheese and Tath was made from sour milk curds. The diversity of the products can also be gauged by the coagulants referred to in old texts: animal rennet, both calf and lamb, was used, but also Irish moss (carraigin) and bog violet (mothan).
In the 1970s an association of artisan producers reintroduced cheesemaking on a small scale in rural Ireland and this soon grew to thirty small dairies. Driven by a mixture of idealism and the need to make a living from their farms, this new generation of cheesemakers drew upon skills and knowledge from all over the world.
Using the same raw materials that served the ancient cheesemakers of Ireland so well, they began to make a diverse range of new cheeses from local, fresh raw milk. Each cheesemaker developed products that reflected their own personalities, experiences and interests; today these cheeses are not only associated with a particular place but with an individual cheesemaker.
Irish specialist cheeses have won international acclaim, but only a handful of the “new traditionalists” still use raw milk in the production of their unique cheeses. The Presidium celebrates the distinctive merits of these cheeses and, by working to protect them for future enjoyment, continue the revival of this island’s cheesemaking traditions.
Unlike many Presidia that concentrate on one particular product with distinctive properties from a specific geographical area, this Presidium covers many different types of raw milk cheeses from across Ireland. The Presidium is made up of eleven artisan dairies that work with their own distinctive style and techniques, but share a common commitment to producing a safe, high-quality product using raw milk from their own cows or goats or milk from nearby herds.
In 2005, the first draft of the production specification was written, laying down rules concerning the management of cattle, the source of milk and the cheesemaking process. The specification states that dairy herds should feed on pasture for eight or nine months of the year; that each batch of milk for cheesemaking comes from a maximum of three milkings; and that the distance between a milking parlor and dairy is minimal. The purpose of this Presidium is to encourage and support raw milk cheese producers throughout the island of Ireland and to increase appreciation for this product. It seeks to celebrate the distinctive merits of Irish raw milk cheese, the environment from which it springs, its artisans and its varied styles of production.
The Presidia is made up of 11 artisan dairies that work with their own distinctive style and techniques, but share a common commitment to producing a safe, high-quality product using raw milk from their own cows or goats or milk from nearby herds.
The Presidium is represented by a number of cheeses that are considered ‘ambassadors’ for Irish raw cow’s and goat’s milk cheese, selected on the basis of their taste qualities. Only one cheese from each producer of each milk type can be represented at any one time.
The purpose of this project is to encourage and support raw milk cheese producers throughout Ireland and to increase appreciation for this product. It seeks to celebrate the distinctive merits of Irish raw milk cheese, the environment from which it springs, its artisans and its varied styles of production. The objectives are to raise awareness among consumers, retailers and food policy experts of the quality of raw milk cheeses, and to defend the right of small-scale producers to make raw milk cheese in Ireland.
St Tola Cheese is proud to be part of this ancient tradition.
More details on Raw Milk Cheeses in Ireland can be found on the website http://www.irishrawmilk.com/