Sláinte: Irish Cowgirls - Three Award-Winning Cheesemakers


In the intervening years, Cowgirl Creamery cheeses have consistently won devoted fans and highest honors at local and national events. Sue and Peggy’s signature Mt. Tam is a smooth, triple-cream cheese with a buttery earthy flavor reminiscent of white mushrooms. Hearty triple-cream Red Hawk, which is washed with a brine solution that tints the rind a sunset red-orange, won Best-In-Show at the American Cheese Society’s Annual Conference in 2003. And each March Sue and Peggy commemorate the arrival of spring and honor their Irish roots with St. Pat, a round of soft, mellow organic milk cheese wrapped in nettle leaves which give the cheese its distinctive pale green rind.

While Cowgirl Creamery’s cheese is remarkable, Peggy and Sue themselves will tell you that they are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the panoply of exquisite American farmhouse cheeses that are described in detail on their website:

Cheese lovers take note! Artisan small dairy cheeses are a far cry from the pathetic pale plastic-wrapped factory-food products you find in massive supermarkets. Your nose will recognize instantly, as did mine some 50 years ago, that these are cheeses of a different order. Your mouth, however, will assure you that some miracle has transformed plain milk into something touched by the divine! And a fine way to celebrate the Feasts of Saints Patrick and Brigid! Sláinte!


NOTE: My cheese guru pal Vickie practically swooned when
I asked for farmhouse cheese recipe ideas. “Using these
sublime cheeses as a recipe ingredient,” she countered, “would be like flavoring beef stew with a $100 bottle of wine!”
Rather, Vickie advises that a selection of cheeses and assorted accompaniments could, and more importantly should, be the ‘star’ of the occasion.

Vickie McCorkendale’s
Cheese Course
To create a meal centered around your selected artisan farmhouse cheese, consider these options: crusty bread or crackers; nuts – roasted or candied; dried fruit – persimmons or apricots; fresh fruit – crunchy heirloom apples, pears and plump berries; smoked or aged meats; a range of jams, chutneys, honeys, and sweet pickles.

Offer at least four contrasting cheeses:
    1) An aged Parmesan-style sharp, pungent cheese that pairs well with honey, especially truffled honey.
    2) A creamy triple-cream Brie-style cheese is superb
with the contrasting texture of nuts and the sweetness of berries or jam.
    3) The heady cave-aged flavor of a good Blue cheese pairs classically with celery, fennel, walnuts and apples.
    4) The basic pungency and purity of a young Goat cheese is delicious with chutneys that offer contrasting sweetness and textures.