I said last week, didn’t I, that you wait for months on this blog and then three ewe’s milk cheeses come along at once? Well, here’s the third. I didn’t mean to choose another sheepy one this week but then I saw these little pots of strained curd, quite unlike any cheese I’ve tried before, so couldn’t resist buying one. Plus, it’s the season for fresh sheep’s milk cheese, given that they tend to stop producing milk in the winter months. So here is the pot of ovine temptation that lured me in:
Homewood Fresh Ewe’s Cheese is an unpasteurised, strained curd made from sheep’s milk by Tim Homewood and Angela Morris of Homewood Cheeses in Somerset. Tim’s background was in catering and before becoming a cheese-maker he worked in a British Rail buffet and various bars and hotels but it was in this world of food and drink that he started to appreciate artisan cheese (well, probably not in the British Rail buffet, to be honest). He got a job as a trainee cheese-maker with Bath Soft Cheeses and then spent time with Pete Humphries at Whitelake (who make the girlfriend-inspired Rachel and Eve). After two years, he decided to go it alone, with his fiancée Angela Morris, who he’d met when they were both working at a farmers’ market in Bristol. Homewood Cheeses was born in 2008.
The company specialise in making ewe’s cheeses, sourcing their milk from a flock in nearby Dorset. At this point in a Fromage Friday post, there’s often a lengthy explanation of the techniques used to make the cheese – cultures and rennet and curds and cutting and pressing and maturing and turning etc. But this cheese is simplicity itself, made in small batches using just milk, cultures, rennet and sea salt to produce curds that are then strained of the whey. Back in the mists of time before the Romans got all fancy with their cheese-making, this must have been what most cheese was like – fresh and made with sheep’s milk. Experts have speculated that Neolithic people were using some sort of substance to set their curds; certainly by the time of the Romans, the use of animal rennet was widespread, as were other methods, such as using the sap of the fig tree, thistles, cardoons, nettles and Lady’s Bedstraw. The good news for eschewers of meat is that this cheese uses vegetarian rennet.
It’s a tiny wee pot and so I’ve tried to save most of the curds to use in a recipe; it seems the perfect cheese to use with seasonal produce such as broad beans, salad and courgettes. But obviously I had a little taste. The texture is like a creamy cottage cheese, but without all the lumpy bits. The taste is fresh, slightly acidic and with a definite tang of lanolin, that reminded me of being in the shearing sheds as a child. It’s deliciously moreish and I suspect I could quite easily eat the lot, in small bursts, over the course of a day. But I’ll be good and save it for something special…watch this space.
Additional research from This is Bristol.