Dates for the Dairy – Somerset Cheese Festivals

Dates for the Dairy, Event cheese

No cheese this week –  instead, the promise of cheese. The Somerset cheese festival programme is slated (see what I did there?) to begin this Saturday. Grab your chutney, statins, sun hats and cagoules, and get involved.

A5-BETTER-WILD-CHEESE-FLYER-2014-2The Second Westcombe Wild Cheese + Beer Festival

Westcombe Dairy and the Wild Beer Company’s promotional material promises “Beer & Cheese & Food & Other Things”. Other Things translates to coconut shys to support the local cricket team, live music, and cheese and beer pairing/tasting classes. They’re launching two new Wild Beer Co. beers, and the dairy will be putting about its stellar unpasteurised cheddar alongside a couple other of its masterfully crafted artisan cheeses. In the event of a light shower or two, there’s cleverly a marquee.

The 151st Royal Bath & West Show

The UK’s “biggest” cider competition; the country’s “finest” livestock; and the new home of The British “Cheese” Awards. Wham Bam Thank You Farmland.

Somerset Cheese, Cider and Moozic Festival

Promises 25 different local ciders; over 30 Somerset produced cheeses; camping; dogs welcome; cheese & cider games “like no other”. Bands include Joey the Lips; Sound of the Sirens; Wille & The Bandits; and The Mangled Wurzels known for such agriculturally flavoured hits as “I Can Drive a Tractor” (see below).

Any festivals I’ve missed for May/June in Somerset, please let me know in the comments section.

Next week: back to cheese

Cheeses call spring: seasonal cheese suggestions

Seasonal Cheeses
This was taken last summer

This was taken last spring

Well, some say spring is here, but if it was really here would I be typing in fingerless gloves beneath a blanket? We look to other signs: the spring equinox has passed (20th March), and cheesemaking blogger Mary Quicke has decreed that spring only arrives when grass growth outstrips her cows’ appetites… which apparently should be around now. As her Devon fields aren’t visible from my North Somerset sofa, we could go with the equinox. But spring is more than just longer days, as a deep feeling poet such as e. e. cummings enlightens:

[in Just-] – e. e. cummings

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
Let’s run with the equinox. Or, better: the arrival of long-awaited springtime cheeses infused with the optimism of the gambolling lambs and tumbling kids from whose eager suckling mouths we’re diverting all this nourishing, life-giving liquid known as milk for something to go with our crackers and stout. Here’s a few that I’ve been obsessing over through the wet winter months:
Tymsboro

Made near Bath by Mary Holbrook – one of the pioneers of the UK artisan cheese renaissance that we currently find ourselves Mary's goatsenjoying – Tymsboro is a pyramidal goat’s cheese similar in style to the French Valençay (no coincidence: Holbrook learned her craft back in the 70s by travelling Europe and picking up tips). The unpasteurised cheese is coated in grey ash, and starts creamy and light before getting richer towards the dense centre. According to the World Cheese Book, it tastes of almonds and lemon. Fiona Beckett calls this cheese, “A modern British classic“. Also see: Cerney Pyramid. (pic above: Mary’s goats on Sleight Farm, Timsbury (the town for which the cheese is named)

St. James

With thanks to Gourmet Britain for this St. James image.

With thanks to Gourmet Britain for this St. James image.

While the majority of my cheese intake involves cow’s milk cheeses (cheddar lover, year round supply), some of my favourite cheeses are made from sheep’s milk (or the faintly ridiculous tag of “ewe’s milk”), such as Manchego, Berkswell, Ossau-Iraty. However, St. James, a previous winner of the James Alridge Award for Best Unpasteurised Cheese of the Year (2005), is rumoured to stand alone, to be quite unique on these shores. And by unique, I mean to say it has a flavour reminiscent of bacon (McDonald’s has probably been trying to perfect this for years). The texture, from the picture, looks like Tallegio, but apparently it can be crumbly and creamy. It’s available from Cartmel Cheeses and Neal’s Yard Dairy, however having been informed it was available at the start of March, it may have already sold out… cursed Maccy Ds.

Ticklemore

The only pasteurised cheese on this list, Ticklemore makes the cut due to its provenance and obvious popularity. The creation of Robin Congdon (another pioneer in the Mary Holbrook mold), it’s now made at Sharpham Estate in Devon by cheesemaker, Debbie Mumford. Again the World Cheese Book’s extra-sensory palette comes up trumps, describing the flavour profile of this UFO-shaped cheese as “herbaceous with a hint of marzipan”.

Next week: a goat’s cheese with a ghoulish exterior, but an interior like seventh heaven…

GB Cheese Regions: Teifi Valley, Wales

Uncategorized

“The British Isles are a dairy wonderland of common climate, temperature, elevation and pasture” – Steve Jenkins, cheesemonger

Teifi Valley map As a cheese region, the Teifi Valley is both new and old. New in the sense that it’s never really been a bona fide “region” until quite recently, after various local authorities embarked on a marketing push for the area and compiled a brochure knitting together five local cheesemakers – Carmarthenshire Cheese Company; Caws Cenarth; Hafod Welsh Organic Cheddar; Sancler Organic; and Teifi Farmhouse Cheese – into the Teifi Valley Cheese Producers.

The brochure reached for the stars, breathily describing how “with its lush pasture and stunning scenery it is no wonder that the Teifi Valley in the heart of south-west Wales has been likened to the ‘Loire Valley’ of Welsh cheesemaking’.

Highfalutin aspirations aside, the Teifi Valley is lush, green and very pleasant to visit (especially when it’s notTeifi countryside raining, which it does a fair bit – hence the attractive lushery and greenery). Great bit of coast as well, with hidden beaches and tiny fishing villages backing into rugged cliffs. It’s also dairy country, and prior to the marketing push it was and still remains to be home to the majority of artisan cheesemakers in Wales.

The varieties made in this region vary a lot, but as it’s Wales you tend to find Caerphilly well represented. Besides that, you’ll encounter the whole cheesy gamut from fresh to bloomy rind camembert-style to blue. It’s a creative valley; perhaps all the rain forces the cheesemakers to spend extra time indoors tinkering with their cheeses. Whatever the reason, it’s well worth a tasting trip.

As an added plus, Teifi Farmhouse Cheese has also installed its own distillery. Their farmhouse botanical gin is a sweet little number.

Teifi Valley recommendations:

Golden Cenarth – Washed rind, oozy, good for melting in the oven and dipping in with crusty bread (or, whisper it: crispy bacon)

Hafod Cheddar – Organic cheddar made from a century old recipe; the nutty creaminess keeps unfolding in the long finish.

Gorwydd Caerphilly – Exemplary traditional caerphilly, soft and lemony with an earthy rind. (Trethowans Dairy which makes Gorwydd isn’t technically in the Teifi Valley, but it’s just one hill over from Hafod (which is also strictly speaking in the Aeron and not the Teifi Valley), so let’s all just geographically unclench for a minute and focus on the cheese).

Seaweed Teifi – After trying this, Pavarotti apparently shipped a ton (perhaps literally) over to Italy. Haven’t tried it, but did try some Teifi Mature that was, in the effervescent vernacular of the West Country, gert lush.

Build your own taste trail here: http://tastetrailwales.co.uk/en