Wonderful Life

Choice 2
Holy Gubbeen Cheese

As I explained in my previous post Breton Cake with apples, my boss sent me on a trip to West Cork with our new Dublin staff; the company I work for, Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, has open new counters in the Capital’s Irish Dunnes Stores; he gave me the job of taking my young colleagues Emma, Philippa and William to where it all started, a land where life is good, wonderful even! “Best place to live in Ireland” I have heard in a recent study; that it may well be, but if you are into artisan food in general and farmhouse cheese in particular, you may well be on to a winner here! Plus, West Cork is not only gentler when it comes to our insular climates; it is also quite easy on the eye… It has been 16 years since I was over, where we had a wonderful holiday in Glengariff with my Dad and my sister who had just landed in Ringaskiddy.

Choice 13
Mount Gabriel

I picked up our crew in strategic Tallaght, I travelled from the most western part of Meath, cleared the peripheral M50 before 7am, straight for Saggart, Rathcoole and we were on our way, the M7, Portlaoise, the M8 and a dusting of snow on the Galty Mountains. We were heading straight for storm “Imogen” and once out of the Jack Lynch tunnel, it looks like we would reach Gubbeen Farmhouse by lunch. I understand now why people say that you are half way there when you get to the outskirts of Cork city! The N71 to the west, to Schull is as long as it is beautiful.

Choice 7
Gubbeen Farmhouse

I parked the car in the yard and we stretched our legs. Giana Ferguson was waiting for us on the porch of the dairy with a big welcoming smile, apologising for the chaotic morning they had, a tree fell, luckily between the two buildings, the clutch of Tom’s van went “ Slán leat” and one of their wonderful staff was off sick. I was reassured to see that “Mondays” can also affect the most Western and idyllic parts of the country.

Choice 11
“Good Moo-rning

We all geared up for the legal health and safety uniform and protection and started the visit of the cheese making area, where the curd was already in moulds; quite a shock from outside, as the air was warm and humid, with the comforting smell of fresh heated milk, curds and whey… The atmosphere was jovial, with great camaraderie and elegance, careful routines repeated over and over through the years with the same patient respect…We finished the tour in the packing room, with a taste of cheese of course, questions and answers while I kept trying to capture emotions with my camera.

Gathering the whey
The curd in, the whey out
Drain game
Gubbeen Tasting

Fingal, clearly hungry, concluded the first visit with a simple “Hackett’s for lunch”? We all jumped in the car for a quick stroll down to the local legendary pub where the blackboard invited you to everything Gubbeen, cheese, bacon, salami… You name it. Toasted Gubbeen cheese BLT for everyone! Nice. As we were about to leave, another legend walked in: “Hi Bill!” as I respectfully shook his hand a hello and good bye. Another cheesemaker I explained, he made parmesan style Desmond and Gabriel! The colourful characters of Schull…

Choice 6
The Menu board in Hackett’s pub – Schull
Homemade Gubbeen Raclette
Parmigiano Reggiano V Gabriel cheese from Bill Hogan

After visiting Fingal’s Gubbeen Farmhouse products, of smoked salami, chorizo, and bacon, experiments and things to come, we left the Farm with cheese and saucisson before heading for Durrus village, down below Mount Gabriel we climbed and descended, as the glimmering lights of this stormy day started to fade behind sheep’s head. We quickly stopped in Bantry for a spot of shopping; on the self-catering menu tonight, Sally Barnes “Woodcock” smoked tuna, brown bread, butter and lemon, followed by a Gubbeen Tartiflette, 100% Irish made! Needless to say, we slept well that night!

Choice 9
Gently smoked Gubbeen Chorizo
Attentive one was…
Choice 10
Gubbeen Salami

Tuesday morning was much calmer; bright and early we drove up to Bantry, to soak in the gentler air from the bay, before climbing the heather road to Coomkeen, home to Durrus Farmhouse cheese where we were treated to a lovely fry, brown bread and marmalade laid by Mother and Daughter Jeffa and Sarah, my former colleague in my early years in Dublin… I couldn’t help smiling at the third generation looking at us slightly perplexed.

Choice 15
Bantry Bay…
Choice 3
Homemade Marmalade

“If you are interested, I am about to add the rennet now!” said Jeffa, with her calm and meticulous sense of organisation; we geared up again and this time, we got to see the whole process, the gentle purring of the warm vat, gently and patiently cutting the curds and where a human hand and eye remain the best judge. The curds were ready to be transferred into molds, small and large, extra-large for the more matured to be Dunmanus…

Durrus, separating the whey from the curds
Choice 20
Durrus, the making of… Dunmanus in this case, a more mature cheese.
Choice 18
Durrus in the making
Choice 16
Baby Durrus maturing
Choice 19
Matured Dunmanus

A tasting, a chat about micro-gardening, penicillium and local yeast around one last cup of tea, we headed back on a 500kms journey home toward Dublin and Meath. As we passed the last Cork roundabout, I checked my two colleagues in the rear view mirror, gone in Morpheus arms while my co-pilot and I discussed and shared anecdotes about the origins of a still palpable cheese revival in Ireland… And the amusing fact that we would be hitting the notorious Dublin gridlock called the “Red Cow” at 5:30pm…

Choice 21
Mist from the cheesemaking room
Choice 23
Sheep’s Head

And let’s not forget the actors…

Giana Ferguson “painting” a smoked Guggeen
Fingal Ferguson, lecturing Emma, William and Philippa
Jeffa and Sarah from Durrus

Before I finish, I would like to dedicate this post to the memory of “Black”, aka Colin Vearncombe from Schull, who passed away sadly just before our visit. I remember debating his song with my school mates in the yard… I was 14-15? Anyway, it was an amazing tune and video clip that brought us together and fell in love with…

Slán Tamall,

Keep Well and Eat Happy,



34 thoughts on “Wonderful Life

  1. Great post, Franck! I especially loved the pictures of the cheese making, and some shots of the outdoors are very nice too! It must have been a tiring trip, but I’m sure every minute was worthwile!

    1. Hi Sophie, thank you for dropping by! Yes it was quite tiring, and not only the driving as there was so much to take in! Thank you for your lovely comment, I love trying to capture the emotions of the days, even writing it was a bit draining for some reason. But always a lovely experience! The storm “Imogen” that crossed the country also gave some wonderful views between the showers! 🙂

  2. Now I understand your post headline – though cheese is something that definitely makes life wonderful as well, so of course it´s a fitting title either way. It also made me sad to learn the news about the death of the man I knew as Black and whose real name I can´t remember though I read it in your post a minute ago!

    1. Hi Sabine; yes indeed, that is right, Black was his show name. He fell into a coma after a car accident and never came back. We found out when we visited Schull the following week. But I believe it was quite a party and a good send off. Good teenage memories for me. 🙂

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