Well, this cheese is a first. Usually I don’t write about two cheeses made by the same producers in quick succession because I find that I don’t have enough to say (same cows, same milk, same people making it in the same place…) But this week’s cheese was described as ‘exceptional’ by the Other Half and ‘oh blimey, THAT is something VERY different’ by me. So, I give you the cheese that broke all the rules, Paddy’s Milestone:
Paddy’s Milestone is a soft, pasteurised, cow’s milk cheese made by Ann Dorward of Dunlop Dairy, who also make Traditional Ayrshire Dunlop, which featured on Fromage Friday a couple of weeks ago. Due to its shape, Paddy’s Milestone is named after the local term for Ailsa Craig, a volcanic rock and bird sanctuary which sits out in the Firth of Clyde; the name apparently comes from its proximity to Ireland. Fact fans may be interested to know that the island’s rock is quarried to make curling stones – one of only two sites in the British Isles. The island is also for sale and can be yours for a measly £1.5 million.
Being a soft cheese, Paddy’s Milestone is made in a very different way to the harder Dunlop cheese. After starter cultures and rennet are added to form a curd, the curd is cut with large knives and left to float in the whey for a while before being ladled into moulds which are open at the top and bottom and have drainage holes in the side. They are then left to drain overnight without pressing and turned regularly to make sure they drain evenly. The next day they are put into brine to add salt before being put on racks to dry. They are then left to ripen in temperature-controlled rooms for several weeks.
Onto the cheese. Its bloomy rind was all wrinkly like a brain; it slipped and slid over the cheese interior and smelled faintly of mushrooms. ‘Oh-ho,’ says I. ‘Here we have a Brie-type cheese. Oh yes.’ And then I cut into it. Oh boy, what a surprise. Rather than a gooey Brie-like interior or even a chalky not-ripe-yet Brie interior, it was all white and fluffy, almost mousse-like and slightly crumbly. In cheese terms, the closest resemblance I could think of was Boursin. But then I tasted it and, again, it was nothing like I expected. The rind was definitely mushroomy and just underneath was a gooey layer that was a bit farmyardy and ammoniacal (word of the day there). But the middle was creamy with a slight bite and did actually taste Brie-esque, just to further confuse my spinning tastebuds. It’s very moreish and the Other Half (who is forced to eat a lot of nice cheese, poor chap) was in raptures about it, declaring it as ‘something else’. So there you go: Paddy’s Milestone, a rather delicious enigma.