Cheese-making in Britain seems to be going stratospheric at the moment. Just when I start to think I’ve heard of every producer going, I turn my back to deal with another courgette glut and – boom! – by the time I’m back, there’s another five popped up. Predictably, a recent visit to the Global Cheese Awards unearthed several cheese-makers new to me, one of whom makes St Gluvias. I bought the smoked version because it’s autumn now and I always go a bit mad for smoked cheese at this time of year. See – I’ve even put it on a seasonally-appropriate fabric:
St Gluvias is a hard, unpasteurised, cow’s milk cheese, made by Trevor and Julie Howe of Kennall Vale Cheese, based in the village of Ponsanooth, near Falmouth in Cornwall. The couple are farmers and Julie had been making batches of cheese in their farmhouse kitchen for several years, just for family and friends. In 2014 they decided to produce cheese commercially and now make St Gluvias and Treloar, a pasteurised hard cheese. St Gluvias is named after the local parish and is currently the only hard cheese made with raw milk in Cornwall.
Milk comes from the farm’s 60-strong herd of Ayrshires, a breed renowned for its creamy milk. The changing seasons mean that the cows graze an eclectic diet, ranging from fresh grass through to turnips or silage, which is reflected in subtle changes in the taste of the cheese. The make begins early in the morning when fresh milk is pumped, still-warm, through to the on-farm dairy. Starter cultures and rennet are added to form a curd, which is then cut into cubes. After some heating and stirring, the whey is drained away and the blocks of curd are cut and stacked – the process known as ‘cheddaring’ (for photos of the process, see Sparkenhoe). Finally, after milling and salting, the curds are packed into moulds and pressed overnight, before being sent to maturing rooms.
I tried an unsmoked St Gluvias at the awards; the texture was firm and the taste earthy and creamy, not dissimilar to a farmhouse Cheddar. The smoked version is – predictably – smoky but, even so, the flavour of the cheese manages to fight its way out. I plan to do something suitably autumnal with what’s left very soon.