We’re back! It’s the second in the “What’s in the Fridge?” series and I’ve got 5 more cheeses to introduce/reintroduce you to!
For any newcomers to the blog, my names Abi and I own and run Arch 13. I’m a certified sommelier, and recently qualified as a member of the academy of cheese. Which is to say, I’m officially a “curd nerd.” For people returning after last months blog, welcome back!
To those of you that bought your “What’s in the Fridge?” box in March, I hope that you enjoyed your cheeses as much as I enjoyed telling you about them.
As always, we’re focussing on artisanal British cheeses so I thought I’d dive into a quick reason as to why we’re so focussed on British cheeses at Arch 13.
We’re right in the middle of a renaissance in British cheesemaking at the moment. Before World War One there were over 3500 cheesemakers in Britain, cut to the end of World War Two and you’re down to a little over 100. Obviously the wars and rationing played a part in the ruin of British cheese making, and the Milk Marketing Board was also a huge factor that took away all incentive for dairy farmers to make cheese.
Fast forward to the deregulation of the milk marketing board in 1994, milk prices plummeted and dairy farmers turned back to cheese to add value to their product and create sustainable businesses. Throw in some help from Neals Yard (big up Randolph Hodgson who started Neals Yard in 1979 and made it his mission to showcase so many incredible British cheesemakers), add in some Paxton & Whitfield and other major players. And bam, you’ve got yourself a renaissance.
Let’s just talk about cheddar for a second. Cheddar accounts for half of all British cheese sales, which is frankly, just insane. Of course, so much of that quantity isn’t necessarily quality. There’s an absolutely huge leap between the cheddar that you’ll find in huge blocks in the supermarket to small artisanal producers, and whilst each has it’s place in the world, I know which one I’d rather have on my cheese board.
Pitchfork is made by Todd and Maugan Trethowan, two incredible cheesemaking brothers who make some incredibly highly regarded cheeses. Starting out on their family farm in Ceredigion, West Wales making traditional Caerphilly, the boys outgrew the creamery and in 2016 they started looking for a bigger site. They were looking at building their own dairy, and finding a place where they could source milk from just one dairy farmer to not only ensure quality but allow the to certify as organic producers. Shortly after they found the site in Puxton, 5 miles away from the town of Cheddar.
Of course, being so close to Cheddar, they had to have a go at making a traditional Cheddar cheese and started crafting Pitchfork.
In 2019, the brothers were accepted into the Artisan Somerset Cheddar Presidia, they went onto win Best British Cheese and 4th best cheese in the world at the British Cheese Award. That’s quite a list of awards.
Essentially, what all that means, is that this is the best Cheddar going. It’s miles away from anything mass produced and it is everything that Cheddar should be. Raw milk, cloth bound, matured for up to 12 months.
Blue cheese is bloody brilliant. I mean, I don’t think I really need to add to that. It’s all about the right cultures and bacteria and being exposed to the right amount of oxygen and humidity. Cheesemaking in itself is such a science, but it’s also a bloody incredible art form.
There are few cheesemakers that know blue cheese quite like the team at Ticklemore Dairy in Devon. The dairy was started by Robin Congdon in the 70’s in an effort to revive the tradition of sheep milking in the UK. Robin started out with just 30 sheep in Exeter before he was introduced to Maurice Ash and the two partnered up on a larger farm on the River Dart where Robin created Beenleigh Blue. Like a lot of British cheeses, the name derives from where the cheese was created, a hamlet on the river. Maybe we should start making a Birmingham Blue? Although, I’m not sure what pastures the animals would have to graze on, I’m not convinced that you’d want the milk to taste of discarded cans of special brew and cigarette packets.
Ben Harris, now head cheesemaker, started working at the dairy in 2002 after finishing catering college and working in kitchens for 5 years. He worked in all aspects of the business before taking on the role as head cheesemaker.
Beenleigh is a delicate sheep’s milk blue with a super crumbly consistency, which, although can be hard to manage when portioning for cheese boards, gives the cheese a beautiful mouthfeel. It’s got a citrus note to it, alongside sweetness and minerality but not overlooking that hit of blue right at the end.
Anyone that really knows me, knows that I like my cheeses with as little structural integrity as physically possible. If you have to use a spoon instead of a knife, I’m 100% sold. Of course, cheeses like that aren’t the easiest to package up and sell or pop in the post. The hardcore Arch 13 fans amongst you will recognise our soft cheese of the month as it’s another fridge staple.
Made by The Hampshire Cheese Company, Stacey Hedges started making the first Tunworth prototypes in her family kitchen, eventually her husband told her to get serious or stop. She got very serious. Charlotte Spruce joined the team and the two became unstoppable in the British cheese world.
Supreme Champion in the British Cheese Awards, Best Soft Cheese in the Great British Cheese Awards, Super Gold Medal at the World Cheese Awards, Gold at the Artisan Cheese Awards and Supreme Champion Waitrose Small Producer Award…I’d call that an award-winning cheese.
Tunworth is served at some of Britains best restaurants, and for good reason. Made entirely by hand, Tunworth is a beautiful example of how good cheese can be. Rich, decadent and full of funk. It can get seriously smelly as it ripens up. Full of garlic, mushroomy, vegetal flavours. You’ll know about this one being in your fridge.
We have a lot to thank monks for. So many incredible things came out of sixteenth century monastaries. Washed rind cheese is one of those things. The monks would make cheese for themselves and the ripening conditions weren’t ideal so they’d wash the cheeses with whatever they had to hand to prevent the bad rinds growing. Being monks, this was mostly ale and brandy and such. And hence, the washed rind cheese.
Durrus is made by the formidable Jeffa Gill at Durrus Cheese in County Cork. Jeffa was part of the network of women that began to reinvigorate Irish farmhouse cheeses back in the 1970’s, and she’s still on top form, now working alongside her neighbour Ann that joined the team in the 1980’s and her daughter Sarah. Talk about a team of boss women.
It’s rich and earthy, with some smokey bacon vibes coming through and a beautiful crystallisation and crunch on the rind.
I think goat’s cheese can often be overlooked on a cheese board, but I don’t understand why. Of course, you get the “I don’t like goat’s cheese” gang but I’d always argue that those people haven’t tried good goat’s cheese.
Goat’s milk can be so versatile, there are incredible hard cheeses in styles similar to that of Manchego or Parmesan, and then there are the beautiful classic soft goat’s milk cheeses of the Loire Valley. Goat’s milk can be aged and nutty, or fresh and citrussy and herbaceous. Please don’t write it off.
Ingot is that latter style of Goat’s milk cheese. Nicola and Martin at Holker Farm have a beautiful herd of 200 Golden Guernsey goats. (Try saying that quickly 3 times!) The whole Covid situation really caused issues for a lot of cheesemakers and the team at Innes Cheese in Staffordshire decided they’d had enough and it was time to retire. Martin and Nicola jumped at the chance to take on their goats and move them up to their farm in Cumbria where they started making Ingot.
Ingot is a classic “Loire Valley” style; Fresh and lactic goat’s milk cheese. It’s rich and herbaceous, and in no way overly “goaty”. Theres a little spicy note in there and the rind develops little blue and white mould which only add to the complexity.
So there you have it, this months (slightly late) cheese blog.
As always, you can buy the box by clicking the link.
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