Cooleeney Farm, Located near Thurles in Co. Tipperary, Ireland, is home to the Maher family, fourth generation dairy farmers and their herd of pedigree Friesian cows.
There is a long history of quality milk production here, with their first award for milk having been presented in 1905.
Breda and Jim Maher together with their son Pat started their cheesemaking operation in 1986. The rich, peaty Tipperary pasture is among the best in the world and ideal for producing artisanal cheeses.
As with so many other dairying families in Ireland, part of the spur for getting into cheese production was the introduction of European milk quotas in 1984. The quotas effectively meant that the Mahers were forced to find a way of adding value to their milk.
Breda, who already had a degree in hotel management, took a course in cheesemaking at the University of Cork and also gained experience at Ryefield Farm in Cavan.
The first stage of the Maher’s cheesemaking plant was completed in 1989. In 1999, the family also purchased the Dublin-based Dúnbarra cheese company, effectively adding several more sales channels. In 2000, Cooleeney also added goat’s milk cheeses to their production range.
Made in the style of a brie, the Maher’s orignal cheese however, was the eponymously named Cooleeney. For production, each morning, milk is pumped from the milking parlor over to the cheesemaking room and into the vats. There, starter cultures are added followed by the rennet. The resulting curds are carefully transferred into molds for draining, which takes place in a temperature controlled room over the course of twenty four hours.
The following day, the young cheeses are brined and transferred to maturing rooms, where they are turned on a regular basis to allow for the even distribution of moisture and mold development.
Cheeses are left to mature for between eight to ten weeks prior to release.