25 Oct 2013

St Jude: Britain's best raw milk cheese

Wise old curd nerds will tell you that it takes five years for a new cheese to really hit its stride. According to conventional wisdom, cheesemakers must first master seasonal changes in the milk before they can make a really good cheese.

Conventional wisdom does not seem to apply to Julie Cheyney, owner of White Wood Dairy in Hampshire, however. Her lactic cow's milk cheese St Jude has just won the James Aldridge Memorial Trophy for Britain's best raw milk cheese, despite only being launched a year ago.

The St Marcellin-style cheese has a lemony flavour and moussey texture when young, but develops into an earthy little bombshell in a basket as it matures, which belies its dainty appearance. I've been a huge fan since day one, as have Cheyney's fellow cheesemakers – the James Aldridge award is voted for by members of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association.

“What a first birthday present!” says an obviously delighted Cheyney. “ I know it's an in-house award and doesn't have a big marketing mechanism behind it, but it's the people that vote that really count. For cheesemakers, it's the one.”

Her cheese is made with raw milk supplied by Sam Martin - a dairy farmer in Hampshire. His cows are an unusual cross between Holstein, Friesian, Swedish Red and Jersey breeds. The milk they produce has its own unique character and was just what Cheyney needed to get back into cheese making.

“I've always been a cow nerd,” she says. “I always go right back to the raw ingredient – what breed the cow is, what they're fed on and how they are kept. I want to make cheese that has its own Hampshire terroir to it. I'm not a cheesemaker in kitten heels and lipstick - I can milk cows and drive tractors. I sometimes help milk the cows at the weekend just because I like doing it.” 

* To continue reading this article, a version of which first appeared in the August 2013 issue of Fine Fod Digest, click here

20 Oct 2013

VIDEO: Great Taste Awards 2013 - the cheese winners

This year's Great Taste Awards saw a clutch of cheeses win coveted three-star status with several being named among Britain's Top 50 Foods.

The Guild of Fine Food (which organises the GTAs) teamed up with Harrods and review app and website www.60secondreviews.com to create a free app with video reviews of all the products in the Top 50 list.

Below are a couple of the cheese reviews (Colston Bassett Shropshire blue and Denhay cheddar) presented by (ahem) me. Other winners included Dutch Mistress goat's cheese and Quickes vintage cheddar.

Top work by Britain's cheesemakers!

You can download the app for free here

16 Oct 2013

Top five new cheeses of 2013

Not all of these cheeses were launched this year, but they are all fairly new and have really hit their stride in 2013. Go get 'em!

Pic courtesy of www.bistroatthedeli.co.uk
Baron Bigod
Fen Farm Dairy, Suffolk
British 'Bries' can be found in all the major supermarkets, but finding a raw milk Brie de Meaux-style cheese made in this country is not so easy. Enter Baron Bigod (above) from Bungay-based Fen Farm Dairy, which is run by third generation dairy farmer Jonathan Crickmore and his wife Dulcie. The couple attended courses at the School of Artisan Food and the Specialist Cheesemakers' Association before launching Baron Bigod (pronounced 'by-god') using milk from their farm's 76-strong herd of Montbeliarde cows. The final flavour is earthy and mushroomy with a silky texture.
Where to buy: Neal's Yard Dairy

Hampshire Cheeses, Hampshire
Wrapped in a spruce band with a gooey centre, this new pasteurised cow's milk cheese has been developed by Hampshire Cheeses' - the company behind Tunworth - with input from Neal's Yard Dairy. Like Vacherin, Winslade has a runny texture when it's fully ripe so you can eat it with a spoon. But unlike its Continetal cousin it doesn't have a washed rind, so the flavour is more delicate - creamy and mushroomy with interesting resinous notes from the spruce. Great sprinkled with white wine and warmed in the oven.   
Where to try:  Rotunda Bar and Restaurant  

James's Cheese, Dorset 
Francis is a washed rind cheese made by James McCall, who worked for many years with the granddaddy of British cheese, James Aldridge. It begins out as a young Stoney Cross cheese, made by Lyburn Cheesemakers, before McCall washes it in a solution of French cultures. It's quite mild by washed rind standards with a pink marbled skin and a pleasant tangy smell. The texture is supple and silky and it has a fresh and appley flavour.
Where to buy: The Cheese Shed 

St Jude
White Wood Dairy, Hampshire
This lactic set Marcellin-style cheese has a lemony flavour and moussey texture when young, but develops into an earthy little bombshell in a basket as it matures. It's made by Julie Cheyney, who previously co-founded Hampshire Cheeses, and was won this year's James Aldridge Memorial Trophy, which recognises the best raw milk cheese in the country and is voted for by other cheesemakers.
Where to buy: The Cheese Board

Hill Farm Dairy, Somerset
Will and Caroline Atkinson are best known for making a pretty little goat's cheese called Stawley, but earlier this year launched a much larger, semi-hard cheese called Wellesley. I'll 'fess up and admit to not having tried this yet, but the Atkinsons are such good cheesemakers it's bound to be a corker. It's made with raw milk from the farm's own herd of goats and is matured for two to three months. The rind is quite dusty and the cheese has a waxy pliable texture a bit like Ossau or Comté. Beefy and caramel flavours abound. 
Where to buy: Country Cheeses

11 Oct 2013

Colwick cheese: a forgotten food returns

Colwick topped with heritage beetroot at the Larder on Goosegate
It's a sign of how far the British cheese renaissance has come that cheeses that had once died out are being resurrected by new producers. Farmhouse Red Leicester, Staffordshire cheese and Dovedale Blue have all been revived in recent years after going missing from Britain's larder. 

Most recently, Matthew O'Callaghan food historian and chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association has helped reestablish Colwick cheese in Nottinghamshire. Colwick is a light, fresh cow's milk cheese, which was produced throughout Nottinghamshire from the mid 1600s. The last commercial production stopped in 1993, but O'Callaghan rediscovered a recipe for the cheese several years ago and encouraged Leicestershire dairy farmers Alan and Jane Hewson to start making it once again.

The couple have since set up their own creamery - Belvoir Ridge - at Crossroads Farm, using pasteurised milk from their own 60-strong herd of Red Poll cows to make Colwick. The cheese has a lactic flavour with a curdy tang and a distinctive bowl shape, which can be topped with fresh fruit. 

It was officially launched at the Artisan Cheese Fair in Melton Mowbray earlier this year and is due to feature in an upcoming episode of the second series of Jamie and Jimmy's Food Fight Club. It's also been admitted into Slow Food's Ark of Taste.

There's a fine looking recipe for grilled peach salad with Parma ham and Colwick on Jamie's website and local pub the Larder on Goosegate (which featured in the programme) is serving it with honey-roasted Roscoff onions, squash and hazelnuts and also makes kind of beetroot cheesecake with it (pictured above).