I confess: I bought this cheese because I thought it was another cheese made by someone else. And also because I’d been sent out to buy blue cheese. But then, rather excitingly, not only did I find out that it was a totally different cheese, I also found out that it was to be the first cheese from Northern Ireland to feature on the blog and the only raw milk cheese made there. It was also being feted as ‘the next big cheese thing’ by top-end delis. So it must have been cheese fate. Here is Young Buck, masquerading as a cheese made by someone from Buckinghamshire (duh, more fool me): Young Buck is a blue, unpasteurised, cow’s milk cheese made in Newtownards in County Down, Northern Ireland by Mike Thomson of Mike’s Fancy Cheese. Young Buck may be a traditional-style cheese but Mike’s story is a very modern one. He started out as a social worker before realising it wasn’t for him and taking a job in a Belfast deli. It was whilst working there that the scarcity of local artisan cheeses became apparent to him and so he headed to England with the idea of creating one. A year of study at the School of Artisan Food in Nottinghamshire (a neighbour of the Stichelton cheesemakers) was followed by a stint at Sparkenhoe Farm, making their three raw milk cheeses. He returned to Northern Ireland determined to produce the country’s first raw milk cheese for generations but the bank managers there had other ideas and he struggled to raise the finance necessary to start up. Finally he managed to raise £80,000 from 98 investors in just a month using the crowd-funding platform Seedrs and, Dragon’s Den stylee, giving away 40% of his new business in return. Mike’s Fancy Cheese was born (named after a nineteenth-century cheesemaking book in which one man was described as a maker of ‘fancy cheese’). After setting up a cheesemaking unit in Ards, he developed Young Buck, which is made to a similar recipe to Stilton (except the unpasteurised bit obviously; whatever you do, don’t go trying to unpasteurise a Stilton). The milk is sourced from a local farmer and after cultures have been added and rennet has been used to set the milk, the curds are cut to release the whey and hand-ladled into plastic moulds where they rest for a few days. The outside of the young cheeses are then ‘rubbed up’ with a palette knife to seal any small cracks (you can see more about this process in the post where I made my ultimately-disastrous blue cheese; at this stage it was still looking good). The cheeses are pierced to create blue veining and a rind starts to form. Finally the Young Bucks are sent to ageing room where they mature for three to four months. My Young Buck was a slice of ivory paste with only a sliver of blueing and a marvellous surface-of-Venus rind. It wasn’t the sort of blue cheese that sears your tastebuds; rather it was creamy and subtle, shot through with a blue taste but also letting through the flavour of the milk, farmyardy and sweet. It did remind me in many ways of Stichelton, which in cheese terms is never a bad thing. Additional research from Belfast Telegraph, The Courtyard Dairy and Northern Ireland Science Park.