It’s been a while. I’d like to say that my vacation from the blog has meant that I’ve lost at least half a stone due to eating less cheese. But I appear to have filled the gap with eating chocolate. And cheese but just not getting around to writing about it. Whoops. Anyway, I’m back on the cheese trail and this week I bring you an especially pretty one:
Vulscombe is a fresh, soft, pasteurised goat’s milk cheese made by Graham and Jo Townsend near Tiverton in Devon. Graham and Jo were part of the renaissance in British cheese-making that happened in the early 1980s. They were living in Sussex at the time but in 1982 they decided to head for Devon with ‘one goat, a wheelbarrow, £1,000, and three small children’ to start a cheese-making enterprise. Heading into Cheddar-country was a risky move at the time as the popularity of goat’s cheese had yet to take off but the gamble paid off and they now produce some 60,000 to 70,000 cheeses a year. They used to have their own herd of goats but now source their milk from a farmer at nearby Rackenford. The name comes from the farm itself – Higher Vulscombe.
Vulscombe is an interesting cheese because it’s made by the ‘acid curd’ method which means that there’s no rennet involved. It’s a labour-intensive method which takes up to a week and, although it used to be a common way to make cheese, now just a handful of producers still make it this way. Starter cultures are used to raise the acidity of the milk and then it is gently heated over a period of days to slowly coagulate the cheese. The resulting curds are drained for a further 24 hours and then finally mixed with the herbs and garlic and pressed.
I confess that I used to be a ‘cheese with bits in’ snob but cheeses such as Teifi (the seaweed version is specially good) and Posbury have convinced me that I need to keep an open mind. Plus, you can’t beat simple herbs in a goat’s cheese and so I opted for the herby version. The herbs are all grown on the farm and picked on the day they are needed; which herbs you get varies with the season. Britain has a long history of adding herbs to cheese: wood sorrel, myrtle, mint, parsley, tarragon, sage and basil are all on record as being used. The texture of the cheese is almost like a cross between fudge and ice-cream, dense but creamy. It’s rich but not over-goaty and the taste of the herbs and garlic is not over-powering at all, letting the taste of the cheese come through. Cook with it or snack on it with a spoon, it’s that tasty. Plus, very excitingly it has allowed me to tick off another one on my ‘cheesy tea-towel bingo.’
Additional research from: