This is one way to keep cows comfortable. It turns out cows that are less stressed out produce less acidic milk, and that leads to better tasting cheese. Mechanical massagers are used in many dairies these day, not just in Switzerland.
In my cheese-reviewing escapades, I have found that, even more so than with chocolate, each cheese has a unique personality and history. With cheese, it's not just about the taste; it's about how the cheese is made, where it is aged, what kind of milk is used and where it is produced. The more I learn about a cheese, the more I appreciate it, especially when I discover a cheese maker and those who age the cheese are concerned with the environment and the well-being of their animals.
When it comes to Gubbeen, I was drawn in by the buttery flavor, and I grew to love it after I read about the cheese maker and all that goes in to making this curious little cheese.
Ireland near Shull, County Cork
In addition to cheddar cheese, Ireland is known for its sweet and mild cheeses, and Gubbeen is no exception. The warm, humid climate where Gubbeen is produced is ideal for several breeds of grass-grazing cows that produce rich milk. The mixed breeds provide milk that ends up being the perfect blend of butterfat and protein. Tom Ferguson, the herdsman at the Gubbeen farm, tends to the following breeds on his farm: British Friesian,
Simmental, Jersey, Shorthorn and Ireland's native Kerry Cow. All the animals are fed a GMO-free diet and graze on the lush grasses in the area approximately eight months of the year.
Black Kerry Cows
There is only one Gubbeen cheese, and, in a sense, the Gubbeen dairy only produces one cheese. According to their website:
the Gubbeen Dairy we make effectively one cheese - Gubbeen. Like the
Chateaux that produce just one wine from their land, our milk produces
Gubbeen Cheese - the trick is what we do in the curing processes. Cheese vintages come from aging plus the milk quality and the seasons
Giana, Tom's wife, spent time in Spain and France where she learned the art of small-batch cheese making before settling in Ireland to continue making cheese. After some experimentation, Giana and her husband Tom began making Gubbeen consistently and they and the Gubbeen dairy team have been doing so since 1979.
Gubbeen is not a typical wash-rind cheese. Three layers of bloom from different organisms make up this rind. It all starts with a basic yeast which grows for three days in curing rooms that have been inoculated with what is known as microseeds of the Gubbeen Flora. It is the Bacterium Linens mold that gives the rind its slightly orange appearance. Many stinky cheeses such as Epoisse or fresh Munster have an orange or pink wash rind. As the Gubbeen cheese develops, it is treated with salt and water washes, but
white wine is also added which balances the PH of the rind. Toward the
end of the aging process, a top bloom forms that enriches the overall
flavor of the cheese.
Neal's Yard Dairy Gubbeen Cheese
This is one of those semi-soft cheeses that is more firm than soft, but there's no mistake that the cheese is smooth and creamy. Tiny holes form throughout the beautiful golden interior. It's slightly chewy, a little bit sticky, and the cheese has a nice mouth feel. The lingering remnants leave an oily film that clings nicely to your mouth after you swallow, leaving a lasting flavor, one that immediately made me think of butter, luscious butter. Yes, the flavor that really stands out is that of butter,
What struck me most about this pasteurized cow's milk cheese is that it is very mild. Take a very fine mild cheddar and serve it with a slab of the best butter in the world, and you have Gubbeen.
Toward the rind, the flavor is a bit stronger but still on the mild side. I detected very slight hints of mushroom, cashews and a very mild straw flavor from a barnyard. Even though there are notes of
straw, and you can even detect a faint taste of the barnyard or the country, it's not anything that will shock or scare unadventurous cheese eaters
away. Though a pasture or meadow comes to mind, Gubbeen isn't in the category of the big stinky cheeses. It's far too mild for that. There really is no attention-grabbing aspect of this cheese, but it's oddly addicting. Perhaps in its subtlety, it becomes more intriguing.
Gubbeen can be used in recipes or served plain on a big slice of crusty bread or in a salad. Try it with an aromatic white wine such as an Alsace Riesling. Vegetarians will be happy to know that Gubbeen is made with vegetable rennet.