The Magic of Irish Milk


The Magic of Irish Milk

Immediate Release - April 2016
Ahead of this year’s May Day we take a look at ancient Milk Festivals and Ireland’s delicious dairy.

If there’s one thing we know how to produce in Ireland, it’s good quality pure fresh creamy milk. The grass-fed system for dairy means cows are out from March to late October and even early November every year. Our cows munch happily on lush-green Irish grass, which grows easily in our temperate climate. The countryside here isn’t described as forty shades of green for nothing!

MILK FOR MODERN TIMES

In the modern-day, Irish dairy herds include the familiar pedigree black and white Friesian and Holstein Friesian and rare heritage dairy breeds like Jersey and the black Kerry cow. All these can be seen dotting pastures in every county of Ireland, giving an idyllic glimpse of rural life and showing just how important dairy farming is to the economy.

 

Some of Good Food Ireland’s famous dairy artisans include Glenilien Farm, Glastry Farm Ice Cream, Killowen Yogurts, Cuinneog Butter, Linalla Ice Cream, Valentia Farmhouse Ice Cream, Mossfield Organic Farm, The Little Milk Company, and our many farmhouse cheesemakers.

 

Because of our longstanding dairy farming tradition, Ireland has an enduring link to the making of butter, sweet cream, buttermilk, yoghurt and other dairy products. In the old days, raw milk straight from the cow was used for all these things. In modern times, pasteurisation has all but done away with raw milk for consumer consumption. However, some smaller dairies in Ireland have introduced a small amount of raw milk for sale again, this is all down to the Raw Milk Campaign. This campaign is successfully run by a number of leading food writers and campaigners. Ireland also produces some gorgeous raw milk cheeses.

 

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MAY DAY

In days gone by, the most important time of the year for dairy produce and butter production was May Day, or Bealtaine, which ran from dusk on the 30th of April to dusk on the 1st of May.

 

This festival celebrated butter making in particular. As we are in Ireland, the folklore and the fairies always come into play at any festival! On May Day, it was thought butter-stealers could charm the butter profit for the season from a butter maker, in no time at all, using their magical powers.

 

Others old folklore tales of local women dressed up as hares who would spread their magic to doom the butter-making for the season. This would be a disaster because butter-making was vital in the economy of rural areas. The fairies were also feared, and the farming community took great care to put in place safeguards against all these magical beings, during the May Day milk festival!

 

MILK FOR MODERN TIMES

In the modern-day, Irish dairy herds include the familiar pedigree black and white Friesian and Holstein Friesian and rare heritage dairy breeds like Jersey and the black Kerry cow. All these can be seen dotting pastures in every county of Ireland, giving an idyllic glimpse of rural life and showing just how important dairy farming is to the economy.

 

Some of Good Food Ireland’s famous dairy artisans include Glenilien Farm, Glastry Farm Ice Cream, Killowen Yogurts, Cuinneog Butter, Linalla Ice Cream, Valentia Farmhouse Ice Cream, Mossfield Organic Farm, The Little Milk Company, and our many farmhouse cheesemakers.

 

BEALTAINE MAY DAY FESTIVAL AT UNIVERSITY COLLEGE CORK

To celebrate the May Day Festival, University College Cork will host an afternoon of Milk and Butter Magic as part of its contribution to the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival. Professor Alan Kelly of the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences will start the session with an insight into how dairy products are made and the art of butter and cheese making.

 

Butter maker Breda MacDonald from the ICA will be present to give a demonstration of butter making using an array of traditional equipment like tabletop and dash churns.

 

Well, known UCC Food and Culinary Historian Regina Sexton will be delving into the folklore surrounding the May Day Festival, with her presentation on Hags and Hares; Milk and Mayhem: The Rituals and Superstitions of May Day Milk Magic. We think it sounds absolutely intriguing!

 

May Day Milk Magic at University College Cork is taking place on Thursday 14th of April, 2016, in the Aula Maxima. The event is from 3 – 5 pm, and admission is free. All are welcome. For further details please ring 021 4904700 or email [email protected]

 

 

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