The village of Durrus lies at the head of Dunmanus Bay on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in West Cork. Nearby, in the beautiful upland valley of Coomkeen, is the home of Jeffa Gill and her Durrus Farmhouse Cheese, the only Cork washed-rind cheese still made from unpasteurised milk.
Jeffa moved to Durrus in 1973. She already knew Veronica Steele from Dublin and was part of the first generation of cheese making classes on the Steele’s kitchen table. The template of the recipe for Durrus was established through experiments with a pan of milk upon the stove.
Durrus Irish Farmhouse Cheese, which has been made by Jeffa Gill since 1979, is a raw milk cheese, made using traditional methods and recognised as one of the finest of the modern Irish farmhouse cheeses made in the artisanal manner. This deep-flavoured, coral-coloured, semi-soft rind washed cheese is made from the milk of local West Cork herds and is free from all genetically modified organisms or their derivatives.
Durrus is mild and creamy with a deep after taste when young, stronger and fruitier flavour when mature, and has a mild to strong odour depending on maturity. The flesh is pale coloured with pinkish, yellow, grey rind. The washed rind develops naturally whilst the cheese is being matured in the curing room. When young, the rind is creamy to pink; colours deepen as the cheese ages.
The cheeses are turned daily for 3 to 5 weeks in rooms with controlled temperature and humidity. During the process selected mould on the rinds contribute to the ever-deepening mellow flavour of the cheese and its typical colours of coral pink tinged with ivory and ochre.
Durrus Irish Farmhouse Cheese has won medals and awards throughout the world, and is available wherever quality cheese is sold. Durrus Cheese has also been regularly recommended by the McKenna's Guides since 1987. Here is a typical blog:
“There is something rather magical, and utterly unique, about the cheeses that are made on farms throughout Ireland. Take, for instance, the cheeses made by my own local cheese maker, Jeffa Gill of Durrus Cheese.
Ms Gill began to make the cheese that became Durrus almost thirty years ago, experimenting with the milk from her couple of cows on the stovetop in her farmhouse, up the hill of Coomkeen. Thirty years on, and that slice of Durrus you cut will have been made by Jeffa, who today uses milk bought from a couple of local farmers. Every morning she heats the milk, creates the curd, then forms the cheese, then sets them on the shelves to mature. It is a uniquely bespoke food, for where else would you be able to enjoy a food that is still made by the person who invented the cheese, a cheese that is unlike any other made anywhere in the world?
Most Parmesan is of superb quality, but it is a regimented quality, a cheese that must sing from the same hymn sheet as every other Parmesan. But Irish cheeses, in comparison, are riffing on the melody of the hymn sheet; they are improvising on it every day, like jazz musicians tearing a melody apart only to recreate it in their own image. The interesting thing is that this free-form, idiosyncratic and individualistic food creation now has a distinguished history. CAIS, the Irish association of farmhouse cheesemakers, recently celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary.
Of its seven founding members, five cheeses are still today made by the people who invented them: Coolea from North Cork; Carrigbyrne from Wexford; and the mighty trinity of West Cork washed-rind cheeses, Milleens, Durrus and Gubbeen. Every day, the cheesemakers make the cheese, they mature it, they mind it. Their work is a precious gift to our table at any time of the year, for every cheese is, in fact, a piece of fine art, every cheese is a unique expression of a person, a place, and a passion to make beautiful food.”
Taking Care of Your Durrus Cheese
• Always bring a cheese to room temperature before eating to enjoy its full flavour.
• Seasonal grey mould can occur - it does no harm to the cheese and can be washed or wiped off.
• When properly stored, Durrus Cheese can enjoy a shelf life of approximately three months.
• The Durrus Cheese should be loosely wrapped and stored in a cool place or refrigerator. It is best stored around 4-7 °C (38-45 °F).
• Wrap in greaseproof paper or cloth to prevent drying, especially if refrigerating.
• Just like a good red wine, Durrus should be served at room temperature. Removing the cheese from the refrigerator at least two hours before serving will ensure the flavours are more pronounced.
• Durrus is delicious eaten with fruit, especially pears and good quality oatcakes. If you enjoy cooking with cheese then try Durrus melted on toast, or added to a fondue.
• A large Durrus is best sliced vertically rather than cut into wedges.
• Left over pieces of cheese can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in greaseproof paper, not cling-wrap. Uncut it will last, and indeed mature further, for at least six weeks. When cut and stored carefully, the cheese will last for about two weeks, and will still be fine for toasted cheese for even longer.
Pairings with other foods:
• Apples (semi-sweet or sharper) and ripe juicy pears
• Fresh or dried figs
• Cured meats and green salads
• Wine, Beer and Cider
• Fantastic with Champagne or Prosecco
• Good with a light ale
• Wines - good with Tokay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Côtes du Rhône.
You may visit Durrus Cheese but by arrangement only, please. Curds and whey at vatting time can be observed through the large viewing window. Jeffa can also offer a cheese tasting and general talk if she is available, so again, please contact her first to make arrangements.
Durrus Farmhouse Cheese
Telephone: +353 (0)27 61100