Sometimes cheeses come to me as a mystery to be solved. When my in-laws presented me with a piece of Savoyard, I assumed from the name it was French. ‘Oh no,’ says mother-in-law, who knew everything there is to know about cheese before I was even born. ‘I think it’s made down the road from us, in Wiltshire.’ So began The Search for Savoyard.
These days, a quick Google is all it usually takes to track down an errant dairy product but a search for ‘Savoyard cheese’ only revealed numerous pages about the Savoie region of France and countless recipes for fondue and tartiflette. It was only by adding ‘Wiltshire’ into the mix that I ended up on a cheesemakers’ Facebook page and even there I had to search hard to find mention of the mysterious Savoyard, or anything much about it.
It turns out that Savoyard is a unpasteurised, Alpine-style, cow’s milk cheese, made by Julianna Sedli of The Old Cheese Room, which is based at Neston Park Farm in Wiltshire. Julianna is originally from Hungary but worked as a cheesemaker in the USA (where she had a goat’s cheese named after her!) and at Sleight Farm (famed for cheeses such as Sleightlett and Old Ford) and White Lake Cheeses (of Rachel and Eve) in the UK. In 2010, she came across some Jersey milk at a farmers’ market and the idea for her first cheese was born: Baronet is a Reblochon-style cheese, made with the milk of the Jersey cows that live at Neston Park. I have yet to try it but, rich and buttery, it’s right up there on my 2017 cheese-bucket list.
And what else can I tell you about Savoyard? Well, thanks to an email reply from Julianna, I can tell you that it’s also made, year-round, from the Park’s organic Jersey milk. It’s produced to an Alpine recipe (similar to Gruyère or Emmental), and aged for 12 – 16 weeks. Each cheese weighs an impressive 3.5-4kg. It develops a natural rind, as well as ‘eyes’, the holes which develop due to trapped bubbles of carbon dioxide that are formed via bacterial action. It reminded me of Summerfield which I fondued with recently, pretty firm in texture although with a slight suppleness. Tastewise, it was rich and slightly sweet and nutty, no doubt thanks in part to the Jersey’s creamy milk. Now to track down some Bayonet…