When choosing a cheese to write about, I always try and mix it up so there’s a variety of styles, animals and places of origin. I thought I’d done pretty well this week, following a cow’s milk cheddar with a sheep’s milk cheese but then it turns out that I’d managed to pick two cheeses made about half a mile away from each other. So, following Barber’s cheddar, come out of the lane, go past the pub, round the corner to the right and up the hill. There you are: this week’s cheese, Fosse Way Fleece:
Fosse Way Fleece is a hard, pasteurised, ewe’s milk cheese, made in a cheddar-style by The Somerset Cheese Company, located in Ditcheat, Somerset (they also make the buffalo milk cheese, Pendragon). The Company was founded in 2005 by Philip Rainbow, who had spent nearly 50 years working for other West Country cheese-makers, his former assistant Anita Robinson, and her husband Nicholas. Based in the heart of cheddar county, they made a conscious decision to do something different and so make a range of cheeses from not only cow’s milk but also sheep, goat and buffalo (although they have now added a raw cow’s milk cheddar to their range, called Six Spires).
Fosse Way Fleece is named after the ‘Fosse Way’, a Roman road that runs close to the dairy at Ditcheat, as it wends its very straight way from Exeter to Lincoln. It’s an appropriate name, as it was said to be the Romans that brought us out of the dairy dark ages during their occupation. In pre-Roman times, the native tribes likely produced soft, fresh cheeses but the continental occupiers introduced skills such as the use of rennet and presses to make hard, pressed cheeses that could be matured for much longer. They would also undoubtedly have been making cheese from sheep’s milk too, as native cows at the time were bred for their draught-power rather than dairy potential.
It’s a pretty cheese, ivory-white in its natural rind. The texture is creamy to waxy and the taste very much as you would expect from a good sheep’s cheese: nutty, slightly sweet and an absolute winner with Quince Cheese. Those Romans clearly knew what they were doing.