Ardrahan at Marion Street Cheese Market

"It transports me," said Lydia Burns, Marion Street Cheese Monger

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By David Hammond

“The American market is dominated by large cheese producers,” Lydia Burns of Marion Street Cheese Market told me, as she gazed lovingly at a beautiful half wheel of Ardrahan, “and that’s one reason why I love this Irish cheese, which is made by a family – that just happens to be called Burns – in County Cork, Ireland.”

Ardrahan is a washed rind cheese, which means it’s frequently swabbed with a saline solution. This style of cheese does very well in the mild and damp, some might say “typically Irish,” Cork countryside.

“This is one of my favorites from Neal’s Yard,” Burns told me, referring to the internationally renowned team of British affineurs who care for cheeses they receive from cheese makers, like the Burns family, helping the cheese mature to the point where it can be brought to market. 

“It has all of the things you want in a washed rind cheese,” said Burns. “It’s chalky at the center, oozy on the outside, with a kind of peanut-buttery texture, a meatiness that’s very satisfying.”

During the St. Patrick’s Day season, some vegetarians may feel left out of the dinner table action as the more carnivorous among us hunker down over our corned beef and cabbage. One of the most excellent features of Ardrahan is that it has a substantial, almost “beefy” quality.

Because Ardrahan is made with vegetable rennet, there were no animals hurt to produce this cheese (it’s still an animal product and so will not be suitable to vegans).

When I suggested to Burns that vegetarians might find some comfort in this Irish cheese during St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Burns didn’t see why I would limit it to vegetarians. We could all, she said, “forego the beef and have the cheese.”

An Irish colleen at heart, Burns fondly regarded the Ardrahan and murmured, “It transports me.”

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