An English Garden in a Jar – Bath Soft Cheese Preserved in Oil

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I was leafing through the British section of the cheese-porn that is Juliet Harbutt’s World Cheese Book, when I came across an intriguing-sounding little cheese; named simply ‘Grace’, it was apparently a fresh soft cheese, packed into jars and covered with sunflower oil and herbs and spices. It sounded lovely but I sadly can’t find any trace of the cheese now, nor its producers.

Preserving foods in oil is nothing new and the Mediterranean in particular have a love of storing cheeses in olive oil, a handy way of keeping food fresh in a warm climate with an abundance of olives. Alas, you can see that my wee olive tree is all mouth and no trousers even in this spell of clement weather and I don’t think I’ll be harvesting any juicy fruits anytime soon.

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I was still determined to get me some cheese in olive oil though and decided to try and make an English garden recipe with some Bath Soft Cheese that I had. The internet, as ever, was alive with information (not least from quite a few survivalist websites who, in the event of a zombie attack or The Road style environmental disaster, seemingly have enough preserved goods in their cellars to prevent them from having to barbeque each other for some months). But, most of all, I took inspiration from Oregon-based blog Culinaria Eugenius who described how to prepare Czech Pickled Cheese.

Bath Soft Cheese is a gloriously squidgy cheese that I discovered on a Fromage Friday a couple of weeks ago and with a fine English pedigree to boot. I roamed about my garden and decided on thyme, bay leaves, oregano and rosemary. Alas, my tomatoes are still tiny green marbles and so I bought some sunblush tomatoes to add to the mix. Finally, I added juniper berries; nothing says English garden more than gin (that’s just me, isn’t it?) I umm-ed and aah-ed about adding garlic but then decided that I didn’t want to overpower the taste of the cheese so left it out. You could also add other herbs such as lavender or sage and even fragrant petals such as roses, as long as they’re edible and dried.

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Getting down to work, I sterilised a kilner jar by putting it through the dishwasher and then into the oven (on a low setting) for about ten minutes. The rubber seal I steeped in boiling water.

I cut the cheese into triangular chunks and packed them into the jar with the herbs and crushed juniper berries (make sure that the herbs are clean and then scrupulously dry to prevent introducing bacteria). I then poured over the olive oil, ensuring that it covered the cheese well and that there were no air bubbles in the jar. Recipes suggest giving it at least a week to marinate and that you can keep it for months on end. Personally, mine’s staying in the fridge and I won’t be keeping it more than a month. Firstly, because it’s cheese and I’m a pig. Secondly, because I’m not risking botulism for anyone.

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I let it marinate for two weeks before I opened it and, when I did, found that the cheese was even more squidgy and delicious but also lightly flavoured with the herbs and oil. I served it with chunks of bread to mop up the oil. Culinaria Eugenius suggests using under-ripe Brie or Camembert, should you be unlucky enough to get a chalky one, and this would be a great way to make it more palatable.

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If you store it in the fridge, the oil will solidify but as soon as you spoon it out onto a plate, it will start to melt. The miser in me nearly used cheaper sunflower oil rather than olive oil but I was glad that I didn’t skimp in the end. Infused with the taste and scent of the herbs, the oil itself is gorgeous drizzled over salads or baked cheeses.

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Right, jars of cheese in hand, I’m off down my cellar, to see how my cheddar is faring. It’s only small but I reckon it’ll see off the zombies for a week or so…

I’m adding this post to the Cooking with Herbs challenge, hosted by Lavender and Lovage.

Cooking with Herbs
Making Cheddar Cheese at Home on Punk Domestics

20 Comments

Filed under Cheese Recipes

20 responses to “An English Garden in a Jar – Bath Soft Cheese Preserved in Oil

  1. OMG! This is such a LOVELY recipe, both in name and ingredients and it has my name all over it! Perfect for squishing and dunking with a slice or four of fresh crusty bread! It’s a fabulous cooking with herbs entry thanks!

    • Thanks! It is rather delicious but the combination of cheese and oil is not good news for my holiday waistline (or what’s left of it after all this cheese consumption). I wonder if some fresh white cheese would work with something like lavender?

  2. I have tried doing something similar with Feta cheese and that was delicious on crusty fresh bread. I hadn’t thought of using Juniper berries before so I will bear that in mind for next time.

  3. Love the zombie survivalists (and the recipe). I’m thoroughly enjoying your posts, thanks.

  4. Naomi Walsh

    Sounds yum!

  5. hey, don’t be too harsh on your little olive tree, even if it IS only wearing a greek kilt ;-) from your photo, it looks like it has flowers (they are always v. understated) you might get a few fruit by sept/oct – though obviously not going to yield you gallons….nice recipe, v, glad i’ve found your site
    think lavender would depend on whether cheese has sharp notes or creamy cabbagey ones – sweet marjoram is good and have made a laban style ‘cheese’ wrapped up in fig leaves and black pepper which had a good flavour

    • Oooh, fig leaves and black pepper sounds good. Yes, I think lavender would work with a creamier, sweeter cheese. Have pondered rose petals too; on one of my Fromage Fridays I tried Burwash Rose, a soft cheese whose rind was washed in rose-water – was good.

  6. Pretty sure that the Bath Cheese Company are at Balham this weekend, so will try and pick some up and follow your lead. Lovely recipe, cheers.

  7. This looks absolutely amazing :D

  8. I’m so impressed you were able to leave it alone to marinate for TWO WEEKS, I’m not sure I’d have lasted two hours! Looks delicious.

  9. This sounds truly sumptuous – I’m determined to give it a go!

  10. Pingback: July Cooking with Herbs Round-Up

  11. Jerry

    Second paragraph: you mean “inclement” weather above, no?

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