Milleens is a soft, washed-rind cheese made from pasteurized cow's milk and was the first 'modern' farmstead cheese to be made in Ireland.
The Steele family makers of Milleens, live near Castletownbere on the very south western edge of County Cork. Milleens was created in 1976 by Veronica Steele, largely as a response to the transformation of her local grocer into a supermarket and the fact that she was no longer able to buy good cheese for home consumption.
Having begun production using the milk from their one cow, named Brisket, making the cheese for their own consumption, Milleens soon began to find a wider audience among local chefs and then further afield in England.
Over the years, production expanded along with the number of cows in the herd. However, in the mid 1990's, the Steele's had a major setback and lost their cows, with the result that they now source milk from a neighbor's Friesian herd. The recipe for Millens has remained much the same despite a switch from raw milk to pasteurized. Also, Veronica and Norman Steele's son, Quinlan has now taken over the cheesemaking from his mother.
Milleens is made in two sizes, a 3lb wheel and a smaller 8oz round known as a "dote" (which means "cherished one" in Gaelic). The geographical location plays an important part in the development and maturation of the cheese, since the dairy is located on the Beara Peninsula, a windswept coastal area that receives more than its fair share of rain. The moist, salty atmosphere is perfect for cultivating the brevibacterium linens culture that gives the cheese its distinctive rind, flavor and aroma.
Milleens has a complex array of flavors, that vary according to the seasons. In the spring and summer, the cheese has distinct notes of flowers, herbs and grass gradually changing with the onset of autumn and winter milk when flavors suggest mushrooms and hay.
The texture also varies between a very soft, almost spoon-able paste to semi-firm. The rind is a rich orange-brown color and frequently slightly sticky, with a wrinkled appearance. Aromas are assertive and barnyardy.
Milleens pairs well with crisp dry white wines, dessert wines and Belgian style ales.