Why is handmade cheddar in Slow Food's Ark of Taste? One writer finds out
Slow Food's Ark of Taste has recently taken in handmade cheddar, which suggests that this cheese is extra special. Brendan Lancaster on the BBC Food Blog wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so he paid a visit to Westcombe Dairy, where he learned some fascinating things about the process of making cheddar:
In the store Tom brings out the cheese iron (or cheese corer) to do some tasting. We try one made last May, the best time of year when the new grass is at its fresh, juicy prime. This gives the cheese a distinctive taste with a longer finish. I'm still tasting it ten minutes later when we’re walking back into the dairy. Once again I’m aware that this level of attention to detail is only possible for a dairy that controls its own milk production.
Although, when I ask Tom how he controls the flavour his response surprises me. He laughs, and says the interesting thing about cheese making is that he has no control over flavour whatsoever. I probably looked confused, so he explains that all he can do is create the best conditions for flavour to happen. The character and flavour come from the grass, the environment, and the particular bacteria in the milk. The skill in cheese making is allowing the really beautiful flavours in the milk to develop in the cheese.