The luck of the Irish is lucky for all of us too - we get to try one of the Emerald Island's best cheddars infused with it's best known fermented beverage, Irish Stout. Well, maybe not truly "infused" cheese, but this is a new concept. While we've experienced beers being used as a solution to "wash" cheese to add flavor and complexity, the stout is actually introduced into a "double milled" cheddar. Traditional Irish Stout, made with roasted barley, is bitter with a slight hoppy finish. The stout adds caramel and coffee notes that accentuate the flavors of the cheese. When tasting this cheese, the creaminess fills your mouth, the nutty flavors begin to open up and the caramel finish lingers on the palate. It is really a unique flavor experience.So, how does it get this way? Dubliner cheddar is aged 12 months and is a very complex cheese. Produced in County Cork, south of the city of Dublin, it's made from the milk of grass fed cows that graze on the lush green rolling hills of southeastern Ireland. The grass makes the cheese rich in beta carotene. The cheese is made using the traditional "cheddaring" process and is set aside to age. When it is matured, the cheese is milled again. Milling is a process where the cheese is put through a "grinder" to break it into smaller pieces. This is where the beer comes in. The Irish Stout is mixed into the cheddar pieces and the combination is put into a cheddar form where it is aged a bit longer to assure that the smaller pieces combine to form a cheddar wheel. The cheese round is then finished with a dip into green wax. Not only is this colorful, but it acts as a preservative against mold.
The original concept for the Dubliner Irish Cheddar with Stout was developed by the domestic and international members of the Irish Dairy Board. They worked diligently with the highly skilled cheese graders in Ireland to define the best way to make an innovative, great tasting product in the style of the classic Irish Cheddars. The teams worked with the best cheese grader, and a proclaimed "foodie", Enda Howley, to assist with refining this product to meet the high criteria that the Kerrygold team has come to expect. Edna was born and raised in Cashel, a small town in Tipperary, known for Irish blue cheese and in this case, awesome cheese graders.
I first experienced the audience response to this cheese at a fundraising event held in Austin, Texas. I brought a selection of six cheeses to a tasting organized to raise money for a culinary scholarship fund. Three of my cheese selections were named in the Top 100 Cheeses by the Wine Spectator. The other choices were solid cheeses with little recognition, including the Dubliner Cheddar. When the majority of the attendees kept coming back asking to sample more of the Dubliner, a star was born! You always know which cheese is the "winner" at the table by the amount that's left over. In this case, no Dubliner Cheddar with Stout was left on the plate!A few weeks ago I tasted this Macaroni and Cheese with Porcini and Bacon and was amazed at the combination of flavors that perfectly blended together. It's a nice dish to top off the winter season. Enjoy the Dubliner Cheddar however you serve it and Happy St. Patrick's Day!Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese With Porcini And BaconServes 4 to 6
3tablespoons Kerrygold butter, divided
1/2 pound (2 cups) elbow macaroni, uncooked
1/3 cup (1/2 ounce) dried porcini mushrooms
2tablespoons all-purpose flour
2cups whole or reduced fat milk
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) grated Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese with Irish Stout, divided
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Heat oven to 375°F. Grease an 8- x 8-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter.In large saucepan, cook macaroni in 3 to 4 quarts boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.Pour 1 cup hot water over mushrooms; let stand about 10 minutes or until soft. Drain (liquid can be saved for soup or stock); chop mushrooms into 1/2-inch pieces.In 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes.Add milk gradually, whisking constantly until it comes to the boil. Add salt, pepper and mushrooms. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, whisking frequently. Remove from heat, stir in bacon, if using, and 1 cup of the cheese.Stir in macaroni gently but thoroughly. Transfer to baking dish. Mix remaining 1/2 cup cheese with breadcrumbs; scatter on top.Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and crumbs have browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.