BY Declan Varley
‘The cheesemaker’s cheesemaker’ is a good description of Marion Roeleveld. In 2004, using milk from her partner Haske’s goats, she started making Killeen Farmhouse Cheese on their 50-acre farm near Portumna, Co. Galway. The main Killeen Farmhouse Cheese production is a semi-hard goats’ cheese Gouda, made from pasteurised milk and traditional rennet and available plain or with fenugreek.
With curds washed and pressed in the Gouda style and with a smooth white paste, the 5kg cheeses are covered in a thin breathable plastic coat and sold from two months of age, when the flavour is fresh and clean with a hint of nuttiness that develops as the cheese ages.
A cows’ milk variety is also made, using milk supplied by a local farmer, and it comes in plain, basil and garlic, cumin seed and an Emmental style called Kilmóra. A holistic philosophy informs the whole production process and the running of the farm, where quality and traceability are paramount. They grow all the grass, hay and silage for the goats themselves and it is a closed herd – Haske only introduces selected breeding males to the herd.
Marion’s training and all-round knowledge of farmhouse cheese production also led to her working with other producers to develop some remarkable cheeses, including Mossfield Organic; the ewes’ milk Cáis na Tíre; and most recently, the East Galway gem, Kylemore Farmhouse Cheese. Consistency and an absolute commitment to quality have led to awards a-plenty for Killeen Farmhouse Cheese, including Best Goat Cheese (twice ) in the British Cheese Awards and Supreme Champion (three times ) in the Irish Cheese Awards. For more details, see www.killeenfarmhousecheese.wordpress.com Now in their 27th year, the IFWG Food Awards celebrate local producers and food heroes who have brought joy to the lives, livelihoods and tables of so many, before and especially during COVID-19, but whose commitment to producing great food and drink will endure long after the pandemic.
“The past year has seen a seismic shift in how people are thinking about their food with a renewed focus on traceability, sustainability and most importantly this year, supporting local. These have been the three key tenets of the IFWG Food Awards and the work of the Guild for almost 30 years,” said Kristin Jensen.
“If this pandemic has any silver lining, it is the light that has been shined on the incredible, resourceful and innovative food producers of Ireland that have responded to the challenge, giving back to communities and ensuring a continued supply of and access to the highest-quality home-grown produce. Today’s winners have an innate passion for food and their commitment is nothing short of vocational. This is our way of recognising their achievements and our way of saying well done and thank you.”
On behalf of the IFWG, Kristin Jensen paid tribute to Bord Bia for its continued support of the awards and its tireless work on the home and export markets to promote and develop the Irish foodindustry.
Una Fitzgibbon, Director Marketing and Communication, Bord Bia, said: “It’s fantastic to see such an innovative line up of Irish producers and initiatives celebrated at this year’s IFWG Food Awards. Seeing their resilience and creativity throughout an incredibly challenging year, I know we can be confident that our local food producers will continue to thrive in 2021. These enduring and respected annual FoodAwards are an important opportunity to recognise local food producers for their distinctive and delicious products, which are the hallmarks of the Irish food and drink sector. Congratulations to all the very deserving winners.”