I’m a recent convert to Caerphilly (or Caerfilli as I now realise it should be called) and a long-time snaffler of Brie and so when I saw Pong describe a cheese as the ‘organic lovechild of a Caerphilly and a Brie’ I knew I had to hunt it down and make it mine. That cheese is Perl Wen and here it is, looking all creamy and lovely and a bit gooey around the edges:
Perl Wen is an organic semi-soft cheese made from pasteurised cow’s milk by the Caws Cenarth dairy in West Wales (‘caws’ being Welsh for cheese). Like so many other artisan British cheese-makers, Caws Cenarth started production in the eighties. Gwynfor and Thelma Adams had lived at Glyneithinog Farm since the 1960s but when the EU milk quotas took effect in the mid eighties – effectively capping the amount of milk a farmer could sell – they decided to turn some of their surplus milk into cheese in an effort to diversify. Fortunately both came from families with a long tradition of making cheese and, in particular, farmhouse Caerfilli and before long, production outgrew the kitchen table and the business went from strength to strength. Thelma is credited with being one of the pioneers of the new wave of Welsh farmhouse cheese-making.
Still a family affair, Caws Cenarth is now run by their son Carwyn. It was Carwyn who attended a cheese-making course and realised that they could make other types of cheeses besides Caerfilli. A new range was born and, amongst it, in 2000, came Perl Wen. The name means ‘White Pearl’ and refers to the bloomy white rind that covers the cheese. Pong’s ‘lovechild’ moniker comes from the fact that the cheese is made to the family’s Caerfilli base recipe but is then mould-ripened like a Brie for seven weeks.
And if you like eating or cooking with Brie, then you need never (metaphorically-speaking) leave these shores again. Its rind yields easily to reveal a mellow yellow paste, creamy and with the hint of citrus that I also found in Gorwydd’s Caerphilly. I ate it straight from the knife but imagine it would be great in tarts or with a big ol’ hunk of bread. Or baked – oh yes, it would be great baked, studded with a few herbs…