From now through to Autumn is the best time to enjoy the many artisan soft cheeses that are made in the UK, particularly in the South West. This is because the cows, sheep and goats have been out on the spring grass and so the milk will reflect the changed diet and consequently the flavour of the cheese.
These changes are more noticeable in the smaller scale Artisan cheeses found in your local specialist deli as the larger scale producers of cheeses more commonly found in the supermarket will try to maintain the same flavour profile all year round as that is what the buyer expects.
Softer cheeses can reach maturity after a few weeks, even days for the very fresh cheeses! Knowing the approximate maturing time helps to estimate when the time of year the milk was produced, from this one can have some fun spotting the changes in flavour through the year.
While the animals are shut in during the Winter months, they are fed preserved grass, hay or sileage, and concentrated feed in pellet form but once out on grass they have access to fresh grass which causes what is called the Spring flush, a rise in volume but a drop in fat content, the cheese maker must allow for this when making their product. Just to complicate things slightly, the stage in an animal’s lactation also effects the milk content, after giving birth, the milk is higher in fat, and this drops until towards the end of the cycle when the volume decreases, and the fat content rises as a result.
An award winning fresh local cheese is La Fresca Margarita produced near Templecombe at Feltham’s Farm www.felthamsfarm.com, Best British Cheese at this year’s virtual cheese awards, inspired by the Latin American and Spanish queso fresco cheeses, and partners beautifully with figs and honey. Their multi award winning cheese, Renegade Monk, a rind washed, soft blue cheese is mature after 4 weeks.
These cheeses are both great examples of how milk can become stunningly different cheeses in a matter of weeks!
Good hunting, enjoy experimenting, comparing, and contrasting.
By: Simon Vernon