The Jo of “Jo’s Cheese” is half of Jo and David Clarke, who make these delicacies. This week’s offering is soft, creamy and delicate, but with a blue bite. “But it’s not blue” I hear you cry. Well, the unpasteurised milk is heated in a small vat and a blue Penicillium mould is added. However, the cheese is not the pierced (unlike their Battlefield Blue) which would encourage the veins to develop. The cheese is then ripened in high humidity, to allow a wonderful greeny grey rind to form.
Sophie Williamson from Sheffield Cheesemasters is the only cheese manufacturer in Sheffield. Sophie decided to become a cheesemaker a year ago, after attending some professional cheesemaking courses at the School of Artisan Food. She experimented at home making lots of different types of cheese, before converting an industrial unit in the city to a make room and maturing rooms. They currently make around 250 cheeses per week using 300 litres of pasteurised milk, sourced from the local farm Our Cow Molly.
Little Mester is Sophie’s first cheese, released at the end of 2017. It as a surface-ripened soft cheese, matured for only two and a half weeks, so fresh and young tasting. It’s soft and gooey on the outside with a firmer core which continues to ripen if left for longer.
Jo and David Clarke are famous for their Sparkenhoe, the only farmhouse Red Leicester made in the county. But
the make other cheeses on the farm too. The first addition was Battlefield Blue, primarily to give them something else to sell at farmers’ markets! Others followed, such as Jo’s Cheese, Sparkenhoe Blue, and — according to a recent Radio 4 program — soon to include a Stilton.
Bosworth Field is a made on the farm with unpasteurised milk. It’s a wonderful mould-ripened cheese, semi-soft with a white crumbly centre getting softer towards the grey mould.
It’s made with the raw milk from the dairy cows and is made in a small vat. The milk is heated gently and the curds are cut by hand and allowed to pitch for an hour, the curds are then placed in 5kg moulds and pressed gently over night and the following day placed in a brine bath. The cheese is then ripened for 2–3 months when the rind forms, sometimes taking on a gorgeous wrinkly appearance.
The name derives from the Battle of Bosworth Field, the final battle in the War of the Roses. The victory for the Lancastrians led to their leader, Henry, becoming the first Tudor king. The battle was thought to have been fought near Market Bosworth, but more recent surveys revealed it to have been two miles south-west of there, with part of the battleground being within the Clarke’s farm in Upton!
You’d be right in confusing this week’s cheese with last’s. Feedback from our new Red Leicester was that customers liked it, but would prefer a bit more whoomph. Luckily, Sparkenhoe produce a version matured for 18 months rather than 6.
A traditional Red Leicester cheese made from the milk of our own cows, a true revival of a fabulous cheese, nutty, sweet with a citrus finish. Cloth bound and matured for 6 months on beech shelves.
whilst about the mature cheese:
A truly wow cheese with a completely unique taste. It is matured for 18 months by which time the salt crystals have started to reform. The caramel flavours are more exaggerated and the overall flavour is strong without being acidic.
Now that the Silly Season is behind us, we can get back on with the serious business: Cheese of the Week.
For Christmas, Mrs. Cheese bought me a copy of “Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese”, by Bronwen and Francis Percival. The authors argue for Proper Cheese: shortening the distance between dairy farming and cheesemaking, and removing fertilizers, pasteurization, and microbial cultures from the process. Such practices are common today; there’s no need for any of them. Each changes the taste of the cheese, and takes it further from the environment in which it is fashioned.
This week’s cheese is a Red Leicester. Until now we’ve only stocked Thomas Hoe Aged Red Leicester (recently rebranded as Rutland Red). Customers love it: supermarket Leicesters are poor, and here was one they could really taste. But Thomas Hoe doesn’t satisfy the Percivals’ definition of Real Cheese: their maker, Long Clawson combines milk from 43 farms, beigeing the flavour.
This week’s cheese is not beige. Sparkenhoe is made by David and Jo Clarke of the Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Co. on their farm in Upton. Unpasteurised milk from the previous day’s milking is used in an old recipe, traditional animal rennet is added, and traditional plant dye annatto used, to give the cheese its rich orange colour. The cloth-bound cheeses are matured for six months, giving it a nutty flavour with a citrus finish. It’s fab, come give it a try.
I’ve been spending time thinking about what cheeses to offer over the Silly Season. As usual, I wanted some great local cheese, alongside some rock stars from around the Isles. But with so many out there, how to choose? Time to put my researcher hat back on.
In 1994, Juliet Harbutt started the British Cheese Awards, to showcase our best cheeses. The Supreme Champion each year is the best of the best. Distances are given from the shop, for the localophile in me.
Pavé Cobble (White Lake Cheese, 154 miles)
Shropshire Blue (Cropwell Bishop Creamery, 49m)
Barkham Blue (Two Hoots Cheese, 141m)
Rosary Garlic and Herb (Rosary Goats Cheese, 164m)
Finally, I’ve recently been reading “All Cheeses Great & Small / A Life Less Blurry”, by Alex James. A lovely gift from our lovely friends at Reading Matters bookshop. Who better to choose the Rock Star of British Cheese than a Cheesemaking British Rock Star. Alex describes
Stinking Bishop (Charles Martell & Son, 95m)
Golden Cenarth (Caws Cenarth, 142m)
Tunworth (Hampshire Cheeses, 152m)
Cornish Blue (Cornish Cheese, 222m)
as brilliant cheeses, whose scarcity was part of their value.
A longlist of long lists, leaving me no closer to a shortlist of modern classics.
We’re very excited to have got our hands on some Ogleshield – Montgomery Cheddar’s softer, washed-rind, Jersey milk cousin. Ok so they’re not much alike, but they are made at the same place.
Made with fattier milk from a herd of Jersey cows, the cheese is then washed in brine every three days. It has a fruity flavour and a supple texture. It’s great for cooking, raclette-style or otherwise, but also a tasty nibble in its own right – a less gooey alternative to some other washed-rind cheeses.
Gorwydd (pronounced Gor-with) Caerphilly is a mature caerphilly produced by the Trethowan family. It used to be made on Gorwydd Farm in the Welsh mountains, but the dairy has now moved over the border to Somerset. It’s made according to a traditional recipe with raw unpasteurised cow’s milk and a traditional animal rennet. However, unlike traditional caerphilly that was sold young, Gorwydd is matured for three months. This maturation allows texture to develop through the cheese: a natural rind, surrounding a creamy mushroomy layer, with a crumbly lemony centre.
Gorwydd has won all sorts of awards. Most recently, “Super Gold” at the 2016 World Cheese Awards in San Sebastián, making it one of the top 66 cheeses in the world.