It’s coming up to the first anniversary of Fromage Homage. Just as I set out to do, I’ve tried a different cheese (nearly) every week and found out how and where they were made. I’d still place myself firmly in the fancier’s camp rather than connoisseur’s corner but I’ve moved on from this time last year when I couldn’t tell a Stilton from a Roquefort or a Stinking Bishop from a Brie. I can at least now taste a cheese and have a bash at which animal it came from and whether it’s a washed rind or a hard territorial. But there’s always one waiting to catch me out and so it was with this week’s cheese. It is a downright enigma. So here is Brinkburn, the Mona Lisa’s smile of cheeses, the crop circle of fromage:
Brinkburn is a pasteurised semi-hard goat’s milk cheese produced by The Northumberland Cheese Company. The Northumberland Cheese Company was founded by Mark Robertson in 1984. A marginal hill farmer at the time, he was looking to diversify when he happened to read about a Dutch lady making sheep’s cheese in a magazine. He started to make cheese from the milk of his flock and it was so successful that he soon began making cheese from cow and goat milk too. A decade later, Mark was looking to make a fresh start after a divorce and so moved to the gloriously-named Make Me Rich Farm and the business has continued to expand (I can’t comment on whether it’s made him rich though).
Brinkburn cheese evolved from a goat’s cheese that they were already producing called Elsdon. In 2000, they were invited to cater for nearby Brinkburn Music Festival and so decided to create a new cheese for the occasion. They matured Elsdon in a cellar for three months; it proved so popular that they’ve been making it ever since. The goat’s milk comes from a Cumbria farmer who keeps Swiss Saanen goats, a pretty white breed, who are milked twice a day. The milk is pasteurised then cooled down before the rennet is added. When the curd has set, it’s stirred for a minute, every ten minutes, for one hour. It’s then quickly moulded and rested for 18 hours before being dry salted. After a brief spell in the fridge it’s then sent down to the cellars, where it grows its dusty rind.
The texture is firm but yielding and I loved the taste. There was no identifiable taste of goat but a definite tang of something ovocaprine (which makes me very happy as it means I can use my newly-discovered word ‘ovocaprine’ which means ‘sheepy-goaty’; I found it in a book but I’m still not entirely convinced it isn’t made up). In trying to describe how it tastes I find myself coming up with all kind of contradictions such as ‘delicate but rich’ and ‘creamy but tangy’. Basically it’s a very nice cheese that I love to eat on its own so that nothing can compete with the flavour. Prizes for anyone who can drop the word ‘ovocaprine’ into casual conversation today.