West Cork has long been a trailblazing region for new artisan food production. Toons Bridge Dairy takes its name from the nearby bridge over the River Toon, in a small and picturesque hamlet in the Macroom countryside in West Cork. Cheese is made at the small dairy on site, from cows and sheeps milk from local farmers. Cheeses made here are continental in style, based on an idea from Toby Symonds, the pioneer of importing Mediterranean products and olives for his stall in the English Market and various outdoor markets around the country.
Expert cheesemaker Franco Picciuolo from Capua in Southern Italy is at the helm as Head Cheesemaker at Toons Bridge Dairy. Franco is the fifth generation of his family to become a Head Cheesemaker.
Since his move to Toonsbridge, Franco has re-developed the entire range of its cheeses. He has created a beautiful Fior di Latte - Fior di latte cow's milk mozzarella is made with raw milk that is cultured with whey starter, fully acidified and then stretched by hand in a traditional mastello. It is slightly drier and firmer than the buffalo version, with less acidity. Fior di latte means flower of the milk and it is incomparable to the tasteless direct acidification version that is sold in supermarkets. This is the mozzarella of choice for pizzerias in Naples as well as Toons Bridge as it melts to a softer and stringier mass. Jenny Rose Clarke, co-owner of Toons Bridge, is very excited about this cheese,made from prime quality milk from Ireland's protected Kerry cow breed, which she describes as a mozzarella style but drier, and melts divinely on her homemade wood fired oven stone baked pizzas, now very popular in the little cafe at Toonsbridge. Kerry Cow's milk is also used for Caciocavallo and Scarmorza cheeses. Scamorza is straw smoked to give a subtle savoury taste and the fragrance of an Irish meadow.
Local ewe's (sheep's) milk forms the basis for wonderful Pecorino. Toby Simmonds says 'Our pecorino is made in Toons Bridge by cheesemaker Vincenzo, to a family recipe from his native Marche region. Vincenzo has a small flock of sheep in nearby Carrigdangan and brings the milk three times a week to Toons Bridge where he makes the cheese. Vincenzo also works in the dairy assisting Franco when he has time!'
A new cheese maturing room on site will allow for the ageing of a range of Franco's handcrafted Italian hard cheeses, which will mature for anything between 8 weeks to up to 12 and 24 months. As we said, West Cork has long pioneered great local food production. Once again, it has embraced this exciting range of authentic Italian cheeses, made by hand with care and dedication from local milks, . in this little rural dairy in deepest West Cork! All Toonsbridge Dairy cheeses are available from the deli and shop on site.