Most of our team has worked with cheese for years, but there is always more to explore and discover. So we invited cheese expert, Rosie Teare, to visit and teach our team more about cheese.
Rosie Teare has worked for one of the country’s leading cheese retailers, Neal’s Yard Dairy. She has spent time as a cheese-maker with renowned goats cheese-maker Mary Holbrook at Sleight Farm, near Bath producing her renowned Cardo and Tymsboro. Rosie has also worked as a chef at the award winning Ethicurean restaurant just outside Bristol and she is now living in France working for MonS Fromagers, learning the art of maturing cheese as an "affineur".
We are keen to celebrate British artisan cheese, so Rosie brought a selection of cheese from Neal’s Yard to explore and taste.
We began by learning how to taste cheese; first observing its appearance; exploring its texture; smelling its aroma and finally tasting. We learned that when tasting a selection of cheeses it is important to start at the lighter end of the spectrum so as not to overwhelm your palette with strong mature cheeses at the start.
Our first cheese was a young goats milk cheese, Hay-on-Wye, produced by Neal’s Yard Creamery, as the name suggests, near Hay on the Welsh border. The colour was white as you would expect with a goats cheese, but the smell was not overwhelmingly "goaty". We talked about how cheese can change over the seasons depending on what the goats (cows or sheep) have been eating. During the winter months when animals are in from the fields and fed on silage rather than fresh grass the flavour may be stronger.
This cheese is made in the Waveney Valley in north Suffolk using the raw milk from the Montebeliarde cows at Fen Farm Dairy. This is the same milk used to produce Baron Bigod (see below) but it is strikingly different and demonstrates how the same milk can produce two very different cheeses. St Jude’s is a soft lactic cow’s milk cheese with a thin and delicate rind. It has a fresh taste and a "chalkiness" at the centre. It is creamy and unctuous.
Baron Bigod is also made in North Suffolk at Fen Farm Dairy, by farmers turned cheese-makers John and Dulcie Crickmore. Made using the same method as a classic Brie de Meux, Baron Bigod has a quality all of its own. Its distinctly yellow colour comes from the quality of the milk.
Our next cheese was a hard sheep’s cheese called Spenwood. This cheese has the characteristics of Pecorino. It has a gentle milky flavour and supple texture. The cheese we tasted had been aged for five months, which led to a fascinating discussion about how ageing cheese produces different qualities and depths of flavour.
Perhaps the most striking cheese on our cheese board was Doddington, with a bold burgundy coloured rind that is a food-grade breathable coating. Made in Northumberland in small batches, this is a raw milk cheese with similar qualities to cheddar. The cheese is pressed in traditional cast iron cheese presses and stored for 18 months. It was a new cheese to most of us but one that we hope to have on our counter soon.
Going up the scale of strength and flavour we moved on to a cheese with which we were all familiar. Montgomery Cheddar has always been one of the bestsellers at Lawson’s. Rosie explained how most cheese-makers conserve some whey from the previous batch of cheese to make the next batch, but Montgomery uses a fresh culture everyday. This means that Montgomery’s Cheddar can vary dramatically in flavour. It is a classic Somerset cheddar with rich nutty flavours that mature as it is aged over 12-18 months.
Our final cheese is also made to an age-old recipe - a classic Stilton. However, Stichelton is made using unpasteurised milk and so, ironically, the Stilton Makers Association declined their request to call it Stilton. It is made with milk that is matured for 24 hours which makes it quite a volatile cheese with a range of flavours and aromas depending on the batch. It is delicate, mellow and smooth. It tends to be creamier than other Stiltons and with a saltier profile.
Our cheese tasting training with Rosie was really fascinating and we learned how to really understand each cheese, from the provenance and quality of the milk, to how it’s made and then matured. We learned new ways to describe the cheese and talk about what we tasted. We also came to appreciate how each batch of cheese can vary and so why it’s important to try everything before you buy it.
We look forward to sharing our cheese and our new knowledge with you when you call into Lawson’s.