I’m off to Devon for Easter and am looking forward to seeking out some little-known West Country cheeses. However, I’ve become aware recently that my selections have been displaying a distinct southern bias. So, to redress the balance before I go away, to give Margaret at From Pyrenees to Pennines a fighting chance at tracking down a cheese (they stock it in Booths!) and to please my mother, this week’s selection is from Yorkshire:
Olde York is a fresh, pasteurised, sheep’s milk cheese made by Shepherd’s Purse in Thirsk, North Yorkshire. The business began some 30 years ago, when qualified pharmacist and farmer’s wife, Judy Bell, was working for an osteopath. She noticed the prevalence of clients with cow’s milk intolerance and began to wonder about the potential for sheep’s milk products. In previous centuries, many cheeses from Yorkshire would have been made from sheep’s milk, including Wensleydale originally. In the late 1980s, however, sheep’s milk cheeses were virtually unheard of in this country. Judy nevertheless persevered, researching sheep breeds and how to make cheese, and building a milking parlour. By 1989, Olde York was scooping Gold at the International Cheese Awards.
The cheese is made using a French technique known as the coulommier method. When the milk has coagulated, thin slices of curd are taken out of the vat and layered into a mould. The mould has a mesh bottom, allowing the curds to settle and slowly drain. This makes for a delicate cheese. Finally, Olde York is coated in wax and allowed to ripen for up to three weeks.
It’s a softish cheese that crumbles easily and the paste inside is flecked with the odd small hole, due to the fact it isn’t firmly-pressed, like a Cheddar or Red Leicester. It’s refreshing and light on the palate but also has quite a savoury, almost biscuity taste. Some sheep’s milk cheeses have a hint of lanolin (if you’ve ever petted a sheep, lanolin is what your hand then smells of!) but Olde York doesn’t seem to. I’ve seen recipes using similar cheeses in a cheesecake which sounds like it’s begging to be made. Unfortunately I’ve eaten my entire piece already…