Day 8 – Free Range Milk

Wednesday is theory day, which means no cooking and a full day of information. Last week I found it quite tiring but today I was very thankful for a change of pace.

From 8:30 – 9 Darina demonstrated tray bakes, one recipe with seemingly infinite variations. It’s very simple but it goes to show how far impressive presentation will take you. If you own a cafe and display cakes as beautiful as these your customers will tell all their friends.

For the rest of the morning we had a visit from Eddie O’Neill, an artisan food specialist from Teagasc. He taught us about dairy and showed us how to make cottage, gouda and ricotta cheese. He uses ‘free range milk.’ Again, grass fed cows are happier and produce better milk than their grain fed cousins. As Eddie says, ‘From moo to you in an hour or two!’  Eddie is pro- fat and pro-sugar. Fat gives flavour and mouth feel (he is ashamed to have worked on the development of low-fat imitation butter spreads in the 1970s).  Due to market demand Teagasc use sugar substitute Stevia in some of their products. Eddie finds it strange that he has to wear a mask when using Stevia, and the amount used is strictly regulated. This is not the case with sugar, which does come from a plant after all.

In the afternoon we had another visit from sommelier Colm McCann. I really like Colm. He is a wine connoisseur with the personality of a beer drinker. He is engaging, funny and no one feels afraid to ask a ‘stupid’ question. Today’s tasting was structured like a dinner party. We started with a white wine, moved on to a light bodied red, a strong red (label designed by Karl Lagerfeld!) and finished with a sweet white wine. A nice end to the day.

I learned :

Only 3% of Caucasians are lactose intolerant. 50 – 90% of Africans and Indians are lactose intolerant.

Ireland is a world leader in the production of infant formula. Huh.

There are 5,000,000,000 bacteria in one teaspoon of yoghurt.

Rosé wine is made from grapes fermented with their skins for a short period. Orange wine is made from white grapes using the red wine method – full skin contact during fermentation.

Red and white cheddar are the same. Red cheddar is coloured with a product called annatto  which was originally added to cover up faults in poor quality cheese.

Food of the day : Raw butter. (Butter made with raw, unpasteurised milk). Darina made this during the talk from Eddie and I sampled some at lunch spread thickly on a slice of sourdough. Amazing.

Line of the day : From Eddie O’Neill. ‘Don’t be let down by things going wrong. More often than not they’ll go right.’ He was talking about milk but for me this meant so much more.

Sunrise over Ballycotton Bay