A couple of farmers want to create a new cheese
Alan and Wendy Dempster, who farm just outside Co Antrim town, are creating the unique cheese as part of an agricultural diversification project which has already seen the launch of Lamb Van, a ‘street food truck specializes in a range of cooked snacks such as sausage rolls and burgers of their own meat.
The business couple have converted a horse box into a fully functional kitchen and are selling lamb dishes at various venues in Northern Ireland. They promote the versatility of lamb and only sell farm quality lamb from Northern Ireland. They have partnered with select small retailers to sell their lamb creations, expanding their reach from hospitality to retail.
Wendy, a food marketing specialist at Northern Ireland’s largest food retailer, is leading the cheese project with the help of experts from the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Loughry, near Cookstown.
CAFRE has a long and successful experience in supporting the development of innovative artisanal cheese products. It’s a record that includes Kearney Blue Cheese in Castlereagh and Ballylisk of Armagh in Portadown. The college, furthermore, was involved in the production of the original Brie-style soft cheeses by the now-closed Fivemiletown Creamery – Ballybrie and Ballyblue – as well as Cooneen goat’s milk cheese. Fivemiletown, a farmers’ co-operative, produced Ireland’s first blue cheese and Europe’s first smoked brie.
“We are planning a hard cheese using pasteurized milk from our own herd,” says Wendy. “This is an exciting idea that we have been working on for many months and which will further expand the farm’s activities and income. Lamb Van, who was also assisted by the CAFRE team, allowed us to gain experience and knowledge in the retail business. We then developed packaged mutton products which are now sold in several local delicatessens. »
Wendy is one of a host of craftspeople and food start-up bosses who benefit from Loughry’s support for new products involving innovation vouchers which offer around £5,000 for a project agreed with a university or a middle School. Through a partnership approach, companies access the support, specialist knowledge and practical skills needed to help drive innovation, develop new products and systems to help their business grow.
“CAFRE’s support and knowledge of food, processing and other essentials such as nutritional information and packaging have been extremely important to us in the development of Lamb Van and now sheep’s cheese. It’s still early days, of course, and we have a lot to do, and we’re both excited about what’s been achieved so far, especially in terms of formulating a recipe for the cheese.
“We really couldn’t have succeeded without CAFRE’s expertise. The college’s knowledge of all aspects of cheese production is impressive and has been
While the Ballymoney couple’s sheep’s milk cheese will be the first in Northern Ireland when it launches later this year, there are plenty of successful sheep’s cheese producers around the world. They include Feta in Greece, Roquefort in France, Manchego in Spain and Ricotta in Italy.
Three companies produce sheep’s cheese in the Republic of Ireland. The first, Cratloe Hills, was produced by Sean and Deirdre Fitzgerald at their farm in Brickhill, Co Clare in 1988.
Many locals have probably tasted these cheeses on vacation. Additionally, the local craft market has grown steadily over the past decade and now includes small producers who have won national awards for innovation, quality and exceptional taste. Their products are increasingly featured on local cheeseboards as knowledge of the products increases.
Ewe’s milk is said to contain much more fat, solids and minerals than cow’s milk, it is ideal for the cheese making process and also resists contamination better during cooling due to its high calcium content. higher. Sheep’s milk contains 4.8% lactose, more lactose than cow’s milk.
The new cheese project reflects the passion Wendy and Alan share for promoting local sheep and lamb, coupled with an awareness of the challenges facing the Northern Ireland market.
Wendy continues: “Our interest in creating innovative products such as sheep’s milk cheese is based on our efforts to promote farm-provided quality lamb from Northern Ireland within our local community, and also to encourage other farmers to reduce the high volume of lamb that we currently export. .
“Our goal is to increase door-to-door sales by highlighting the health benefits and great versatility of lamb and sheep’s milk cheese. Cheese is a product that can be used regularly at home and is also ideal for restaurant meals. It is a truly delicious product with enormous potential. And, of course, it’s a local product.