Silke Cropp is rightly famous. Her raw milk cheeses are some of the earliest farmhouse cheeses in the country. Any awards she has not already won are simply not worth winning. This woman's commitment to creating artisan cheeses made with love, care and devotion, has ensured the rise and rise of her range to where it stands today - at the very pinnacle of artisan food production in Ireland.
It all started twenty years ago in her wonderful Corleggy Farmhouse, on the banks of the River Erne between the counties of Cavan and Fermanagh. Silke hand makes her raw milk cheeses from goat's, cow's and sheep's milk, to provide a wonderful choice to suit any palette. Corleggy is perhaps the most famous, made from goat's milk. The Corleggy herd of goats graze on the lush drumlins - little hills - familiar in County Cavan. These pastures take on different personalities at different times of year, depending on the seasonal growth of wild herbs and flowers, which the goats find very tasty! Of course, this diversity of diet adds its personality to the end product - a small, hard cheese with a sea salt brine bathed rind - which those in the know say is the tastiest part!
At Good Food Ireland, we couldn't possibly be biased about best bits - we love the whole lot! Corleggy Cheese is matured anywhere from 8 weeks to four months, depending on season and humidity, and has scooped many a gong for its consistently good quality. Production is very small and seasonal, and the finished cheese comes charmingly hand wrapped and tied just like a precious gift, and rightly so.
Drumlin, named after those little hills, is a hard cheese made from only the morning milking of raw cow's milk which Silke collects herself from nearby farms. This cheese is usually made within twenty minutes of the milk arriving at the dairy, which means all the natural flavour is there right from the start, resulting in a wonderfully complex cheese. Drumlin has a gentle softness on the taste at around six weeks, gradually maturing into a bold little number with time. Silke says the longer you keep it the better it gets! And she should know.
Creeny raw milk sheep's milk cheese completes the trilogy here. At two months, the cheese is semi hard but with good flavours, which show real promise in maturity. At about a year, the cheese is hard and very like Pecorino, with a potent, piquant pepperiness - sounds perfect to us!
Silke's ethos of making high quality cheese as close to nature as possible has carried her through the last two award winning decades, and will continue to carry her through many more. Her cheeses shout their credentials from the rooftops. These days, alongside making cheese, she's just as likely to be found imparting her substantial expertise to those who want to be able to make cheese too. A summer cheese school runs at Corleggy Farmhouse each year, and those who attend learn a lot at the hands of this lady craftswoman. They come away with not just practical knowledge and sound advice, but also the huge surge of passion this woman exudes for the job. Passion is something Silk Cropp has in spades.