Milk and Wine
It was a beautiful sunny day when we arrived at the school this morning and the grounds looked great. Darina started off our Wednesday lecture day talking about the Ploughing Championships that are on in Co. Laois this week. Food has shot up the political agenda as it's become a major driver of the Irish economy, she said. Food production as a profession may have been regarded as a job of lesser value but is now providing lots of opportunities as Ireland grows it's reputation as a clean, green island.
In the first half of the day we were covering milk products, butter, cream and cheese. We heard about the emergence of the Irish farmhouse cheese industry in the last 25-30 years, which has thrived despite Ireland being a "nation of Calvita-eaters" in the past. This story originates with Veronica Steele of Milleen's Cheese who decided to experiment with the milk produced on her farm in 1976. She produced soft cheese, which was so successful she trained the other wives of farmers in the area, and was the start of the cheese production industry in Ireland.
In Ballymaloe there are 5 or 6 cows which provide milk daily for butter, cheese and yoghurt. It's their vision to have this replicated by other small farms to supply the local area with these products. We heard how domestic cheese-making is growing in popularity around the world and one of the fastest-selling item in the US retailer Williams Sonoma in the last year has been a cheese making kit.
We then met Eddie O'Neill, Artisan Food Specialist at Teagasc who spoke to us about the Irish dairy industry. He was obviously very passionate about what he does and had a very infectious enthusiasm for the subject. He demonstrated how skimmed milk and cream are produced using a separator. This was used to separate milk that came from the cows on the farm this morning! Eddie and Darina both made the point that cheese and butter can be made in the home, or in a restaurant, particularly since it is not a law that milk is pasteurised in Ireland. Apparently there are campaigns in France and the US for the choice to buy raw, unpasteurised milk. "I'd love you all to have a cow!" said Darina, one for everyone in the audience maybe?
Darina then went on to show us how to produce butter from beating the cream and separating out the buttermilk, see pics above. Apparently there are opportunities in this industry, and we heard about Improper Butter, two Irish women (Elaine Lavery and Hannah O'Reilly) who are producing flavoured butter in Dublin, and were featured in the Irish Style section of the Sunday Times last week.
Erin and Kate enjoying the sun after lunch
After lunch it was time for our second wine lecture with Colm McCan. We started off with a tasting of Prosecco, from Corte Alta. We learned that Prosecco epitomizes the 4 F's...Fun, Fashionable, Frothy and Frivolous. It's meant to be a straight-forward sparkling drink, easy to enjoy for a celebration, but not complex or complicated. For weddings at Ballymaloe House they serve Prosecco with Elderflower Cordial which is a popular alternative to a Bellini (as we can't access peaches). It's also great at Christmas to serve with frozen cranberries, which are festive but keep the glass cold too.
We were then taken outside to the gardens for a lesson on the etiquette of spitting out wine into a Spittoon after a wine tasting - apparently the spittoons gather dust among the 12 week students.
It was then onto Bordeaux to try Medoc from Chateau Potensac, a tri-blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It was rich and smooth and delicious and goes well with lamb apparently.
The next wine, The Chocolate Block, a blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Viognier was described as super-sexy and iconic. It was also very enjoyable and should be paired with beef, game or stews.
We finished with an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon produced by an Irish couple, the O'Dwyers, in Clare Valley, South Australia.
That rounded up Wine Wednesday and tomorrow morning it's back to the kitchens!