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Siobhan ni Ghairbhith

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In 2008, Siobhan ni Ghairbhith was giving a talk at a Slow Food gathering in County Clare, and summed up her food philosophy in the simplest, most concise, most profound way: “We all come back to the land and the earth”, she said.
Understanding, and respecting, and utilising that good earth is what Ms ni Ghairbhith does in her daily work, making the St Tola goat’s milk cheeses. She was a teacher before coming to cheese-making more than a dozen years ago, and that analytic side elides superbly with her poetic approach to cheesemaking.
“The West Clare land is reflected in the cheeses,” she said, but it would be more accurate to say that she is able to get the cheeses to reflect the West Clare land, that rainy, boggy, beautiful part of the country. With every piece of St Tola you get stored-up sunshine, and stored-up rainfall, and stored-up nature. The cheeses can seem to taste entirely elemental, for Ms ni Ghairbhith uses organic methods, and doesn’t pasteurise her milk. Nothing gets in the way of bringing grass and nature and naturalness into the cheeses.
None of this is an accident. Ms ni Ghairbhith is philosophical about her work, but also intensely practical. St Tola cheese are what they are because that is the way she wants them to be. “We all have wishes and ideals,”, she says “and if you are determined they will come true.” That determination has given these cheeses iconic status, for they are studied exemplars of nature at its best, the land and the earth summarised in a perfect crottin.

St. Tola Cheese, Inagh Farmhouse Cheese, Gortbofearna, Maurices Mills, Ennistymon, Co. Clare,
+353 65 68 36633
www.st-tola.ie

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