The winners of the 2019 Blas na hÉireann awards have been announced in Dingle, with Green Pastures Donegal crowned Supreme Champion for their Green Pastures Donegal Soft Cheese – and Burren Balsamics announced as Best Artisan Product.
Now in their 12th year, the Blas na hÉireann awards are the all-island food awards that recognise the best Irish food and drink products, and the passionate people behind them. The awards are the biggest blind tasting of produce in the country.
The judging system was developed by Blas na hÉireann with the Food Science Dept of UCC and the University of Copenhagen, and is now ecognised as an industry gold standard worldwide. Products entered are blind-tasted, meaning that all packaging and identifying features are removed from products before being presented for judging. Judges come from a range of food backgrounds from chefs to restaurateurs, academics, journalists, authors, food champions, caterers and enthusiastic home cooks.
During the first round of judging which took place over the course of four weeks in July, over 2,500 entries were judged in UCC, bringing the total number of finalists in each category down to just 5. Those 5 winners in each of 140 categories were submitted to the judging days in Dingle, where all 350 producer finalists had their food products tasted.
Green Pastures Donegal is a family run business based in Convoy, Co. Donegal, where they mix the traditional craft of cheese making with modern technology to create a range of dairy products including their winning product, Green Pastures Donegal Soft Cheese. The company works closely with family farms to advocate and support sustainable farming practices within their milk supply farms.
Founded in 2014 in Richill Co. Armagh, Burren Balsamics set out to produce a range of fruit infused black balsamic vinegars. The initial range was so well-received that the company developed a selection of white balsamic infusions and now has over 15 balsamic vinegars on offer. This is the second time Burren Balsamics has won the Best Artisan Product at Blas na hÉireann, having won in 2017 for its Blackberry & Thyme vinegar. This year, the company picked up Best Artisan Product for its Raspberry Infused Balsamic Vinegar.
Speaking after the announcement, Artie Clifford, Chairperson and founder of Blas na hÉireann, said: “Blas na Éireann 2019 has been another exceptional year showcasing the talents and hard work of some of this country’s most innovative, forward-thinking and disciplined food entrepreneurs. The engagement from the public increases year on year too, which is always rewarding to the entire community that has come together through Blas an hÉireann over the last 12 years. These few days in Dingle at the culmination of the Blas awards process are days we all look forward to all year — days of celebrating quality, connections, competition and our worthy winners.”
John Molloy from Green Pastures Donegal said: “It’s a wonderful surprise to win Supreme Champion here today with such incredible produce all around us – the standard at Blas is always exceptional and we are thrilled that our Green Pastures Donegal Soft Cheese has scored so high among the Blas judges. This is a huge accolade for us, it’s great to know that our knowledge of cheese making mixed with a modern approach is producing an award-winning cheese. We must thank the farmers we work with also who ensure we get the best possible quality milk to work with.”
“We are thrilled to win Best Artisan Product for the second time here at Blas na hÉireann in Dingle,” said Susie Hamilton-Stubber from Burren Balsamics. “Having the Blas stamp of approval has been fantastic for our business and it’s just brilliant to leave with an award given the stiff competition. We always love making the trip to Blas, it’s a great way to meet up with like-minded people, network and taste the best of the best of Irish produce.”