Taste The Burren Food Trail – Episode 1: Saint Tola Farm
You will know Saint Tola as the award winning goat cheese produced in the Burren, in Ireland. I was happy to visit Saint Tola farm and see where the magic happens as part of a tour of the Burren Food Trail.
I have been a very happy customer of this goat cheese for donkeys years, so when the Burren Eco Tourism Network invited me to visit the Burren Food Trail, and I saw that the first visit on the itinerary was Saint Tola Farm, I giddily accepted the offer and started dreaming about the cheese logs. The ashen ones, the fresh ones, the aged ones and even the crottins.
Although Saint Tola farm is not a petting farm, if you give them a head’s up they will be more than happy to let you in to visit the goats. If you want a more organised visit, they take in group tours but those must be pre arranged. More importantly you can pop into the farm shop and sample and buy all the cheese.
I first met with Petru who has been with Saint Tola Farm since 2003 when he moved to Ireland with his wife, from beautiful Romania. He is now the farm manager and the goats get so excited when they see him. They love him and he loves them. He gave me a long chat about the herd which is made up of Saanen, Toggenburg and British Alpine goats. As it is still cold, the goats are currently under sheds but they will be out to pasture on their large land quite soon.
When you’re done chatting with Petru, go and have a chat with his wife, Carmel, for she is the cheese maker. Carmel has been with Saint Tola Farm as long as her husband and she loves that cheese the way he loves those goats. I had a fun tasting session with her and we have similar tastes. We like our cheese older and strong. But there is no doubting it, St Tola cheese is good at any stage.
Some fun bits I learned at Saint Tola Farm:
- Baby goats have a tremendous sense of fun and are afraid of nobody.
- A goat will just eat anything that’s lying around. It doesn’t matter whether they get sick, they will still chew at your clothes and your hair so beware.
- It takes 6 days to make goat cheese. At that stage it will be very fresh and mild but edible. I like mine ashed and at least 2 weeks old.
- Baby goats will let you cuddle them and are the sweetest thing.
- If you cuddle a baby goat long enough you will smell like mature cheese until your next shower.
There is a huge amount of love and caring that goes into the production of this stunning cheese. To me, it tastes just like Ireland, sweet and grassy and creamy. I love St Tola spread on toasted sourdough tartine. If I want it savoury I will add some ripe slices of tomatoes and some sea salt flakes. If I’m after a sweet bite, I’ll use the same bread, spread it with the cheese and crush a few raspberries on top with some freshly crushed black pepper. Delicious.
The Burren Eco Tourism Network is a group of businesses based in the Burren and that are committed to the promotion of responsible tourism and the conservation of the unique Burren environment with the general aim of the community well being.
I have been on working farms before, but I’m particular keen on lambs and goats when I get the choice. They’re just good fun. Last year I went to visit Suzanna Crampton and her zwartbles and enjoyed every minute of it. This was my first time to visit a working farm during lambing season and the cuddles with the kid goats were worth the cross country trip alone.
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‘Baby goats’ are called kids.
They are just the cutest. I love your last point about “if you hug them for long enough, you will smell of cheese….”. Point noted!
I made this brew using some Irish sea weed that I gathered on a Burren eco tourism tour (can”t remember the names of each but i threw in a few leaves (?) of each!)). Also added a stick of lemongrass and some cardamom in the mix! Turned out great. Thanks for the recipe! Fingers it”ll be my shield to the flu epidemic that seems to be going around! 🙂