I went to a reunion in Manchester recently –
twenty ten years since we started university there, who would believe it? The height of the weekend’s debauchery was my friend’s husband getting thrown out of a pub for falling asleep because he’d been up with the kids since 5am so, hangover-free, we all decided to go for a walk into the city centre during the day. Once, a walk into Manchester would result in one of us getting our nose pierced in Affleck’s Palace (guilty), another gaining a tattoo from a dodgy bloke at the back of the Arndale Centre (not guilty) and purchasing a poster of either a) Pulp Fiction; b) the Blur dogtrack picture; or c) Magic Eye psychedelic cannabis leaves (guilty as charged on all counts). But gone are those days and so I dragged us all to Harvey Nicks to check out the deli counter. I was in search of a local cheese which I’d heard about last year, through Twitter, I think and – huzzah! – there it was:
Burt’s Blue Cheese is a pasteurised, semi-soft, cow’s milk blue cheese made in Altrincham, Cheshire by Claire Burt. Claire, after studying food and nutrition, previously worked for Dairy Gold in product development which involved having to learn all about cheese – how to grate it, grill it, melt it and make it. She fell in love with the cheese-making process and decided to start making her own as a business venture. Like me, she started experimenting at the kitchen table, trying to produce a blue cheese, as that was a cheese she liked and that didn’t require a huge outlay in terms of cheese presses or storage facilities. Unlike me (fortunately for her) her blue cheese didn’t explode under the pressure of its own rancidity and Burt’s Blue was born.
Claire started production in the cellar of her terraced house and then, after winning a gold gong at the prestigious Nantwich International Cheese Awards, moved into a small room at the Cheshire Cookery School; before long she was on the move again to a prefab dairy and started making the cheese twice a week rather than once. The milk is sourced from local dairies and pasteurised before each cheese is hand-made in a small vat – the curds cut and ladled and the resulting cheeses dry-salted before being pierced and matured for three to four weeks.
When I asked to try some, the man on the deli counter was keen to assure me that it was a ‘mild’ blue, as if a woman might collapse under the strain of a salty Roquefort or somesuch. But he was right; it was a subtle cheese, creamy and rich with just a pepperish hint of blue. I’m always stunned by the number of people that don’t like blue cheese and it’s my personal mission to try to win them all over one by one. This is a cheese to try if you don’t like blue cheese – and a cheese to try if you do like blue cheese. Plus, as a bonus you can get a tattoo done afterwards.