I bought the cheese for this week and then a few days ago I thought, ‘Oh, you know what, I’m going to skip it this week. I’ve got lots to do, everybody’s got lots to do. Let’s just give it a miss.’ But then I was reading a book (about cheeses, by the way, not Jesus) that quoted the Bible as saying ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.’ So, there you go, cheese at Christmas! Plus, I’d chosen a sheep’s cheese and you only have to flick through a hymn book to see that sheep feature big-time at Christmas (cattle, on the other hand, just seem to hang about lowing). And then there’s the name of the cheese, ‘Lord of the Hundreds’…
…So, I relented and bring you a suitably festive cheese, as an excuse to wish a Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays, if that’s more your thing) to everyone who has stopped by for a cheesy chat this year. It’s been great fun and I hope to see you again in 2014.
Lord of the Hundreds is a hard, unpasteurised, sheep’s milk cheese produced by Cliff and Julie Dyball of The Traditional Cheese Dairy in East Sussex (who also happen to make the first washed rind cheese I tried on this blog, the lovely Burwash Rose). The cheese was originally developed by the late cheese pioneer James Aldridge who worked with the Dyballs when, in 2002, they quit their jobs in finance and insurance to pursue their cheese dreams. The cheese is made from the raw milk of Friesland ewes. Although sheep produce far less milk than cows, it’s richer in fats and solids and so it’s great for making cheese. After the curds have formed, the Dyballs ladle them by hand into square baskets; the cheeses are not pressed, giving the cheese an open texture and convex sides, where the weight of the cheese forces out the sides as it ages. The cheeses are brined and matured for six to eight months, during which time they’re rubbed and turned every day to help create the light grey knobbly rind.
The name ‘Lord of the Hundreds’ originates from Saxon times when tax collectors, working on behalf of Lords, would oversee parcels of land which were called ‘hundreds’ (or wapentakes if you want to get all Danelaw about it). On the land where the dairy is situated, there is still a marker where people would gather to pay their taxes. The shape of the cheese – square, which is unusual for a hard cheese – is also said to resemble this monument.
I’m a big fan of sheep’s cheeses and this one is a corker. Somewhat like a Pecorino but not as salty or sheepy, it’s sweet and nutty. There’s also something grassy about it and this was the smell I got too when I opened the fridge; opening my fridge can often release some pretty noxious odours but the Lord of the Hundreds had a lovely sweet, sheep-in-the-meadow whiff about it.
May your festive cheeseboards brimmeth over!