It’s fair to say that this cheese has led me a right old dance this week. I saw it in a cheesemongers and was immediately taken by the look of it, its very French-looking livery yet its British origins. Into the basket it went along with a couple of others and I went on my way. It was when I was on the train home that I realised I couldn’t remember the name of it and the receipt inside the bag was no help to me. ‘But that’s okay,’ thought I. ‘I remember that it’s from Somerset and how many cheeses can there be from Somerset that are soaked in cider brandy and wrapped in vine leaves?’ Two, it turns out. Oh. B*gger. But, look, you can see why I fell for it, can’t you? Ooh là là.
So, yes, unbelievably, the powers of the internet revealed to me that there were two cheeses of exactly the same description and even made by the same producer! What on earth was going on? I set forth on Twitter for help from the ever-friendly cheesemongers on there:
The truth began to emerge…
@fromhomage is Little Wallop not Alex James presents ?—
The Cheese Press (@thecheesepress) May 12, 2014
No! Please tell me I hadn’t bought an Alex James cheese! Now, I’m sure he’s a nice chap and very passionate about his cheeses and unlike some, I don’t really care that he made cheese out of ketchup or pickled onions or whatever it was. But I was living in Manchester during the Oasis vs. Blur media-engendered spat and so swore allegiance to the gritty gorillas of guitar rather than Blur’s mockney quartet. So I’ve always been irrationally annoyed by whatever they do. I know that makes me petulant but what can you do, formative years and all that. (And yes, I am aware that the Gallagher brothers are actually far more irritating…)
But surely they can’t be exactly the same cheese?
The Courtyard Dairy (@CourtyardDairy) May 12, 2014
Righto, so which one was mine then?
The Cheese Shed (@TheCheeseShed) May 13, 2014
Ah-a. So now I was getting to the bottom of it. The shop I bought it from was definitely the kind of gaff that would plump for the raw milk sort of cheese but I needed to be sure. ‘Why don’t you phone them?’ someone helpfully suggested. So I did (wondering why I hadn’t done so three days earlier). Eve it was.
Eve is an unpasteurised, soft, goat’s milk cheese that’s washed in Somerset Cider Brandy and then wrapped in vine leaves. It’s made by White Lake Cheese, who also make Rachel, which I wrote about back on Valentine’s Day. White Lake is a partnership between Roger Longman and Pete Humphries. Pete used to work for Bath Soft Cheese but wanted to branch out on his own and Roger comes from a long line of Caerphilly makers. In 2004 they got together and a whole line of lady-named cheeses was born, including Eve in 2011.
The farm is home to a herd of 600 goats, a mixture of breeds that includes Saanen, Toggenburg, British Alpine and Anglo-Nubians. The goats are milked twice a day and will produce about two and a half litres of milk. Starter culture and rennet are added and, once it’s turned curdy, the curds are cut by hand and put into moulds to drain overnight. They’re then taken from their moulds and sent to a room to mature (which sounds a bit like getting sent to your bedroom, with your Dad yelling ‘Grow up! after you). Each cheese is washed lightly in Somerset Cider Brandy and wrapped in a vine leaf, underneath which grows a white fluffy mould (and apparently the naturally occurring mould in this part of Somerset makes some cheese glow fluorescent under ultraviolet light, which is one of the coolest cheese facts I have ever heard).
It’s hard to tell from the photo but Eve is about the size of the palm of my hand. The leaves look tough but actually give way easily beneath a sharp knife. The texture of the paste beneath is very much like Dairylea, smooth and spreadable. I doubt any artisan cheese-maker wants one of their babies compared to Dairylea but the comparison ends there as the taste is rich and has that slight citrusy tang of goat’s cheeses. It would be a lovely addition to a cheeseboard (especially if you turned all the lights off to reveal your day-glo goat’s cheese), or indeed just to scoff down with some crackers when no-one else is around.
Oh yes – White Lake makes cheeses for Alex James too. Little Wallop is the one that is Eve’s doppelgänger, although I haven’t tasted that one…yet.