The Boyne Valley Farmhouse Cheese Range
‘Our goat’s cheese is selling faster than we can make it! So says Michael Finegan of Boyne Valley Farmhouse Cheese. That’s his reflection of what’s been a whirlwind time since he started production of his Boyne Valley Blue goats cheese and Boyne Valley Bán goats cheese.
This third generation dairy farmer was brought up with his family on the farm in Slane. The fertile land was owned by his Grandfather and his father before him. Both were traditional dairy farmers with a large herd of cows and Michael looked set to follow in their footsteps. But prior to taking over the farm, his four year’s experience in New Zealand managing goat’s milk enterprises, brought about a turn around in his thinking. ‘In 2008 we were looking at massive investment to update the cow’s milk production, in order to have a viable business in the current market. At the same time, the local dairy who produce goat’s milk products was looking for farmers supplying goat’s milk. We took the decision to swap the cows for goats and to supply the dairy, and it’s been the best thing we did’, he says. Together with wife Jenny - a trained nurse who is no stranger to milking goats and running the farm – Michael has achieved a modern day success story. He gives full credit to Jenny, saying ‘ I couldn’t have done it without her.’ That’s what we like to hear – a successful man who appreciates the good woman behind him!
These days, the 300 strong Finegan mixed herd of Saanen, Alpine, Toggenburg and Anglo Nubian goats produce milk for the dairy Co-Op, and to make their Boyne Valley cheeses, introduced to the market in 2010. Chefs and professional cooks around the country are using Boyne Valley cheeses – the cheeses have come to the attention of several high profile names since production began. Its success can only continue, given the passion of the farmer and the skills of the cheese maker. Good news all round!
This success led to Michael undertaking an expansion to his business in 2016. A 200 year old barn located on the family farm was converted into a cheese making facility. The new facility allowed Michael to increase his blue cheese production and also to develop a new cheese for the business. This resulted in the creation of 'Boyne Valley Bán'. A white goats cheese made very similar to the French 'Tomme de Savoie', it was has been a great addition to the Boyne Valley Farmhouse Cheese range.
Boyne Valley Blue is similar to Bleu D'Auvergne in texture and taste - a brown rinded crumbly cheese with good veins of blue throughout. The flavour is a marvellous balance struck between the character of the goat's milk and the depth of taste from the mould running through the paste.
In contrast, Boyne Valley Bán, the newest cheese in the range, is a semi-hard pasteurised white goat's cheese. At two-three months old, the rind will be dry and white from mould. In regards to tasting, the cheese is rustic in appearance - a thick, sometimes fuzzy, grey rind. The pâté can be buttery in colour, or so pale that it is virtually white. With an earthy scent, small eyes also appear on its surface. Boyne Valley Bán is mild and creamy, fruity and nutty, but it also has a robustness with overtones of salt. Michael recommends that you pair it with sausages, fruit, bread and of course, wine!
Michael says his cheeses are ready two months old, when the flavour is developed and carries the piquancy of the goat’s milk. With ageing, this cheese becomes more crumbly and more powerful on the tongue – a giant of a cheese on the cheeseboard. Two months is an optimum age to enjoy it, according to Michael. Although some of his cheeses have been left to mature for as long as a year – these are serious cheeses for serious cheese lovers!