thistle rennet CHEESES
Words by Patricia Michelson
Three new cheeses have landed on our cheese room shelves, and they share a character and style, but with cow, goat and ewe milk to showcase their particular qualities.
Five years ago when a young Cheesemaker would ask me what they should try to create, I said Britain needs more interesting goat cheeses. It’s great to have contact with a producer to discuss the way forward for a new enterprise and goat cheese is quick to transform from milk to cheese and therefore something that produces an income from the start.
When I have been asked recently what should be made, however, I have been saying washed-rind cheeses. They are more complex as the micro-organisms that spread on brine-washed rinds needs careful management, but the rewards in taste are multi-layered and really interesting.
It’s exciting to see that there are two new ones from England, and one from Belgium, on our shelves. All three are from small, independent producers, where dairy management is of prime importance from the grass pasture to the processing of the milk into cheese. The ewe and goat cheeses will not be available throughout the year as the animals are allowed to take a break and have their ‘kids’ in the cooler months. Following the natural rhythm of nature may appear to some to be not cost effective, but to those of us who love the fact that cheese follows the seasons, this is not only important to the flavours of the milk and the resulting cheese, but also allows our palates to enjoy the flavours at the right time.
All these cheeses have a common denominator, and if I had to predict anything for the future, it would be that the insightfulness of thoughtful production of food is the way forward, and also the way to protect the welfare of the land, the animals and the end result – the food it provides us.
MEET THE CHEESES
Coagulated with flowers from the Cardoon Thistle, which grows in the hills surrounding the dairies, this gives a distinct herbaceous flavour to the rich flowing curds, finishing with a wild, sharply sweet earthiness. Made by hand, the wheels are bathed in brine, then rubbed to give a smooth, almost waxy feel to the finished rind. Full-bodied dry red wines are an ideal match.
VEGETARIAN THISTLE RENNET
Organic goat’s milk coagulated with a cardoon thistle rennet. Corneel is lightly brine washed and rubbed to produce a tangy flavour profile with creamy herbaceous floral notes. Pair with a Rosé, Sablet Blanc, Viognier or chilled cider in the summer and with a Pale Ale or Blond Beer for a lovely brunch or weekend supper.
SERRA DA ESTRELA
An artisan-made mountain cheese coagulated with rennet extracted from the Cardoon plant (a wild thistle). This is not such a strange idea as the animals are grazing on pastures studded with wild herbs and flowers. The milk will separate into solid curds after about twenty minutes of exposure to the rennet, enough time for the plant to imbue its flavours – sharp, tangy, floral overtones give a delightful contrast to the smoothness of the curds. The rind is smooth and rubbed in oil before being wrapped in muslin to protect it from cracking, a practice we continue in our maturing rooms. Eaten in its younger stages with a spoon, after removing the upper rind, this mature version, though melting on the palate, can be sliced, and is markedly sharper and zestier.
Made by Fraser Norton & Rachel Yarrow from their own herd of pedigree Anglo Nubian goats and additional milk from another local herd. In the shape of a truncated pyramid with a nutty geotrichum rind. The pate has a mellow tangy taste with faint citrus notes. Aged for 21 days at the farm, we like to age it at least a further week in our fridges, tightening the rind & adding a nuttier edge to the flavours.