So, turns out that today is #CheeseLoversDay. Other than a hashtag, I’m not sure what this consists of but it did seem to mean I had to write something. Then I started to worry: if I post about a particular cheese, will all the other cheeses think that I love that cheese the most? Finally, I got a grip and decided to just write about the last cheese that I bought, on a recent foray to East Anglia.
Norfolk White Lady is a soft, pasteurised, ewes’ milk cheese made by Jane Murray of Willow Farm, near Wymondham in Norfolk. Jane started off selling ewes’ milk in 1996 before branching out into yoghurt then cheese. I’ve written before about East Anglia’s historical reputation for making bad cheese (see Norfolk Mardler and Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses). However, although Norfolk was never traditional dairy country, several nineteenth-century writers do refer to ‘Norfolk Cheese’. It was apparently made from full milk plus cream, coloured yellow with annatto or saffron (perhaps originally from the nearby fields of Saffron Walden before the industry died out) and long-keeping. William Marshall, however, at the end of the previous century was critical of the county’s dairymaids, especially their losing battle against flies:
‘An East Norfolk cheese, found and whole at Christmas, is a rarity; by Ladyday, there is not, generally speaking, a pound of Norfolk cheese, nor even a handful of maggots, to be purchased in the District.’
Fortunately things have changed somewhat in 200 years. Jane makes White Lady from the milk of a herd of 60 Friesland ewes, which graze on the rich, fertile Black Fens. The milk is pasteurised before the cultures Penicillium candidum and Geotrichum candidum are added. It’s these cultures that are responsible for the downy white mould that will result in a Brie-style cheese.
When you first take it out of the fridge it’s fairly firm but, after half an hour or so, starts to ooze marvellously. The flavour is rich and ripe, with a slightly sharper edge to it than Brie, thanks to the ewes’ milk. If you want to see someone do something truly indecent and splendid with Norfolk White Lady (I realise how wrong that sentence sounds) then check out this blog post about smoking it and putting it in a focaccia.
*Remember – other cheeses are available to be loved too.