So it seems like soft sheep’s cheeses are like proverbial buses: you wait a year and then two come along at once (yes, that should be three but I think you can have too much of a gooey ovine thing…) This week’s cheese is one that I’ve often spotted in cheese shops but have never bought due to the sheer heft of the thing and the fact you have to buy a whole one. Since starting this blog I’ve had to start walking about 10k a day to avoid turning into one of those people on Channel Five documentaries that have to have the front of their house removed by emergency services to let them out. And I try not to buy pieces of cheese the size of a small house brick. However, the imminent visit of some fellow turophiles gave me the perfect excuse to snap one up this week. So here is Flower Marie:
Flower Marie is a soft, unpasteurised, ewe’s milk cheese, produced by Kevin and Alison Blunt of Golden Cross Cheese at Greenacres Farm in East Sussex. The Blunts both have a background in science but in the 1970s, in search of the good life, they bought a smallholding where they kept goats and hens. They began just selling the milk but when a local goat’s cheesemaker decided to retire they bought his herd and some of his recipes. They now have 300 goats of different breeds and make the renowned goat’s cheese, Golden Cross.
Flower Marie was developed by the late cheesemaker and affineur James Aldridge, who the keen-of-memory amongst you may remember also played a hand in the creation of St James. The name of the cheese was inspired by the Corsican sheep’s cheese ‘Fleur de Maquis’ and apparently named after Ann-Marie Dyas, who founded The Fine Cheese Company in Bath (which incidentally used to sell the finest sausage rolls in the southwest; it may still but I haven’t been for a while).
The Blunts buy their sheep’s milk from a herd of Friesland-Dorset sheep who frolic in the meadows of Essex and are supplemented with hay and maize silage. It’s a lactic set cheese which means it relies primarily on natural bacteria converting lactose to lactic acid causing the proteins to cling together and form a curd; it takes much longer for the milk to coagulate, about 18 hours. It’s then ladled gently by hand into the moulds and left to drain before the resulting cheeses are removed, brined and taken to the maturing rooms. They stay in these rooms for about three weeks , where they develop a bloomy white rind. After three weeks they are ready to eat but are often sold between four and six weeks.
It’s a lovely, smooth, slightly furry cheese, the sort you want to stroke like a kitten (just me again right?) The outside is a little pink in places but inside the paste is ivory white with an amazingly soft and creamy texture – it’s often compared to ice cream. The texture is very creamy and the taste is slightly mushroomy with just a hint of that sheepy lanolin flavour. It’s also sweet but in a natural way, not like you get with some cheap territorials. It disappeared pretty much over the course of one lunch, a fair amount of it going down my throat; time to go for another walk…