For anyone squeamish of cheese (who, let’s face it, probably ran screaming from this blog a long time ago) today’s cheese may well sound like their worst nightmare. Not only is it soft and squidgy like a ripe Brie but it also has blue veins and a slightly crusty rind. Only washed rinds terrify cheese-haters more than a squidgy, crusty blue. But one person’s cheese nightmare is another’s jackpot and the combination sounded pretty fantastic to me. So when I caught sight of some at a food show recently, it was in my bag as quick as you like.
Here it is, oozing menacingly:
Cotehill Blue is an unpasteurised, soft, blue, cow’s milk cheese made by Michael and Mary Davenport at Cote Hill Farm in Lincolnshire. Similar to a cambozola or blue Brie, it’s a tricky cheese to perfect and one of only a small handful produced in Britain. The Davenports had been farming for more than thirty years but in 2005, like so many other farmers in the last twenty years, they started making cheese as a way to diversify in the face of falling milk prices. Lincolnshire is not an area traditionally associated with cheese-making and, at the time, Simon and Tim Jones were the only cheese-makers in the county, with their Lincolnshire Poacher.
The Davenports use the milk from their own herd of 70 cows (Friesians, Holsteins and Red Polls – the latter being a relatively rare breed) which feed on fields of clover during the summer and a mixture of grass and maize silage and clover haylage in the winter. (‘Haylage’ was a new term for me but should there be any forage fact-fans out there, it’s basically drier than silage but damper than hay.) This produces milk rich in butterfat and protein
The cows are milked twice a day and the morning milk goes straight to the cheese-making rooms, where Mary adds rennet and cultures, including the Penicillium Roqueforti responsible for the blueing. The curds are separated from the whey and put into moulds to drain. Salt is rubbed into the surface and they are turned every three days and pierced to let the blue mould run riot over the next three weeks.
And the taste? Well, I’m trying to refine my tasting skills and stop just gobbling things back at a fast rate of knots. So, first I give it a sniff; there’s a definite whiff of ammonia and an underlying smell of cream. The texture is gorgeous, like butter that’s been left out all day. Near the rind, it’s slightly mushroomy and the blue is very subtle, just the faintest hint of something mouldy and tasty, rather than the spicy smack in the tastebuds you get from, say, a Roquefort. All in all, it’s a lovely cheese and not one to be shied away from, even if you don’t normally like blue cheese.
So here is a little test, to see if anyone bothers to read down to the bottom of my posts. The World Wide Web informs me that apparently, Michael, if badgered enough, will admit to being a cousin of Jack Davenport. Twenty points for anyone who can
admit to having a big girly crush on him name the TV series he was in, in the early 1990s. And apologies to the Davenports for derailing a post about their delicious cheese with my celebrity over-excitement.