Completing our tour of Leicestershire Handmade is Battlefield Blue. A bit over 200g, it’s an individual blue cheese, as rare as sunshine in Chinley. It has a green/grey rind, like it’s counterpart Jo’s Cheese. Unlike Jo’s it’s pierced, allowing soft blue veins to develop. Creamy, mellow, but with a bite of blue.
OK. You got me. I love Leicestershire Handmade Cheese. There, I said it.
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.
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!
Spot the difference!
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.
About the young cheese they write:
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.
Come give it a try!
New year. New cheese.
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.