Milleens: the Humble Irish Beginning
Irish farmstead cheesemaking is the story of a great comeback, one told in Culture's autumn issue by writer Maggie Armstrong. Here's a glimpse at Irish cheesemaker Veronica Steele's early days of production, before Milleens became the lauded name it is today:
Tuesday, 6th June
“2 cheeses – one bummer, one good but grated.”
Monday, 12th June
“cheddar, larded and waxed, fell and wax broke!”
Sunday, 25th June
“cheddar, hand-pulled, stolen by dog!”
Friday 30th June
“remember to take out gorgonzola. Made 2 small emmenthal. Wow.”
In 1978 cheesemaker Veronica Steele kept this diary. After the student protests of 1968, the young philosophy graduate had moved to the wilds of West Cork with her husband Norman. They lived self-sufficiently on a farm with a one-horned cow. Norman was lecturing in philosophy. They needed a way of storing milk for the winter, and Veronica needed something to do. “If you’re stuck at home with children, you’d be surprised what you get up to,” she recounts.
On Friday 11th August she added the stately entry: “1 extra large Milleens.” And on 31st August: “2 flatty Milleens – 2 gals each. Ladled into unlined moulds. Both moulds capsized. Ladled slices of curd back in. Cld be interesting”.
Could indeed. The briny-rimmed marigold-yellow orb with the rich, luxurious paste was to become Ireland’s first farmhouse cheese. After that, the wheels began to turn.
Written by Maggie Armstrong. See her feature article on Irish Farmstead Cheese in Culture's fall 2012 issue.