Dur­rus Cheese proves a big hit with con­sumers in Ire­land and UK

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - FOOD & DRINK IRELAND -

The story be­gins in the early 1970s — when Jeffa Gill bought a small farm on the hill­side val­ley of Coom­keen just above Dur­rus vil­lage in West Cork.

She set about re­build­ing the tum­bling­down farm­house, grow­ing veg­eta­bles and milk­ing cows.

Hav­ing stud­ied and worked in fash­ion de­sign in London and Dublin, and orig­i­nally from a farm­ing fam­ily in Worces­ter­shire, Jeffa was part of a small group of creative and pi­o­neer­ing women, spear­headed by her friend the late Veronica Steele of Milleens, who ex­per­i­mented with smallscale farm­house cheese mak­ing.

A write-up in the Ir­ish Farm­ers Journal in 1981 high­lighted the ef­forts of these early in­no­va­tors and at one of the first Ir­ish Farm­house Cheese com­pe­ti­tions held at Clones Agri­cul­tural Show in 1984 Dur­rus Cheese won Gold.

This early award was to be the first of many. By the mid- 1980s, more help was needed, so friend and neigh­bour Ann McGrath joined in with the en­ter­prise.

Ann still works with Jeffa to­day where she over­sees all the ma­tur­ing and pack­ing of the cheeses. By 1986, the cheese was be­ing dis­trib­uted all over Ire­land by spe­cial­ist whole­salers and to the UK, much to Neal’s Yard Dairy who fur­ther ex­ported it to the USA & Aus­tralia. In the early days the farm kitchen was con­verted to hold the cheese vat and ma­tur­ing shelves and by the mid 1980’s pro­duc­tion was ex­tended into the farm out-houses.

In 1991 all cheese mak­ing was moved out of the fam­ily house and into con­verted farm build­ings in the yard. Fast ap­proach­ing its fourth decade Dur­rus Cheese is still hand­made by Jeffa Gill along with her daugh­ter Sarah Hen­nessy, Ann McGrath and the rest of the team.

The cheese con­tin­ues to win awards at both na­tional and in­ter­na­tional level, most re­cently win­ning two and three Gold Stars for the Dur­rus Mini and the Dur­rus Óg at the Great Taste Awards in the UK.

Jeffa Gill said: “We are now pro­duc­ing four cheeses and will con­tinue to make delicious, high qual­ity ar­ti­san cheese from the ex­cel­lent milk pro­duced from the rugged ter­rain of West Cork.”

Dur­rus Cheese, a high qual­ity ar­ti­san cheese made with milk from nearby West Cork herds.

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