People don’t tend to talk about cheese coincidences, do they? Perhaps most people don’t have cheese coincidences. I’m not sure I used to, to be honest, but if you’re going to eat a lot of cheese and read about a lot of cheese, it’s going to happen. And so it was when some friends came round for a fondue night and brought with them the gift of a chunk of cheese. (Kind guests! Wise guests!) The cheese was called Ogleshield and it just so happened that one of the cheeses that was lying in an enormous grated cheese-mountain behind me, ready to be fondued, was Bermondsey Hardpressed. And goodness me, what do you know, they only go and share a Cheese-Daddy! (That’s very different from a Sugar Daddy by the way…)
Here is the Ogleshield (it was vacuum-packed so I don’t think it usually looks quite this shiny):
Ogleshield is an unpasteurised, washed rind cow’s milk cheese, made by Jamie Montgomery of Manor Farm in Somerset. Montgomery’s Cheddar (made from the milk of Friesian-Holstein cows) is one of the best Cheddars in the country, an absolute cheese-bucket-list must, but the farm also has a herd of Jersey cows which, alas, whilst having very nice eyelashes, are useless for Cheddar-making (as I learnt to my cost with the recent judging of my own Jersey-Cheddar Colin). You would assume that lovely, creamy Jersey milk would be a shoe-in for gorgeous cheese but apparently not; the fat globules are so large that they make setting more difficult and tend to bind in moisture which can make harder cheeses taste funny as they mature.
So it was that when two American wannabe-cheesemakers arrived at the farm, wanting to know the secrets of making great Cheddar, Montgomery set them to work to find a cheesy use for the Jersey milk. After much experimentation, they came up with a recipe somewhere between a Cheddar and a Tomme; the cheese was called ‘Shield’, partly because of its appearance and also because there’s a hill on the farm (that some believe to be the site of Camelot!) where an ancient bronze shield had been found.
The cheese turned out to be perfectly acceptable but lacked the wow factor. Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy apparently nicknamed it ‘Montgomery’s Lite’ and found it too hard and mild. One of the Dairy’s affineurs (‘cheese maturer’ is the rather less exciting-sounding English equivalent) was no less than Kappacasein’s Bill Oglethorpe, whose name makes it sound like he’s from Ilkley Moor but is actually French and learned his cheese skills in the Swiss Alps. As a pet project, he began washing the rind of the Shields in salt water and letting them sit in a moist room; this locks in more moisture and also results in the sticky orange stinky-feet rind produced by brevibacterium linens bacteria. The cheese was much richer and fruitier and not dissimilar to an alpine Raclette, a cheese characteristically used to make a dish of the same name with potatoes and sometimes smoked ham. A new cheese was born and christened Ogleshield. Some friends of Oglethorpe’s bought him a Raclette machine and his Borough Market stall was born – the same stall where I had purchased my fondue-bound Bermondsey Hardpressed (he also gave me some free yoghurt from under the counter, not yet on sale, made from his cultures; it’s the sweetest natural yoghurt I’ve ever tasted, really good).
And the Ogleshield? Well, it’s a washed rind cheese, so it’s not a shy guy. Its texture is a little more rubbery than British washed rinds like Stinking Bishop and Oxford Isis, probably due to the alpine influence of the recipe. My live-in washed rind hater refused to even try it and I have to say even I found it a bit much to nibble on. In its defence, as I said above, it had been sealed in plastic and I have a feeling that this resulted in a similar effect to when you leave a very sweaty P.E. kit in a carrier bag for the weekend – trapped ponk. Raclette-lovers rave about it though and so I tried some in a subsequent fondue and really liked the oomph that it gave to it. Bill’s Ogleshield Raclettes are regularly voted as one of the best sandwiches anywhere ever so there’s nothing for it, I’ll simply have to return to Borough Market and give Ogleshield another chance…sigh…