When tackling any cheeseboard, it makes sense to start with the less, ahem, feisty characters. So it is that, in breaking open the Pong English Selection Box, Cerney Ash was first on the cracker, given that its stable-mates are a mature Cheddar, a Stilton and Stinking Bishop itself.
Cerney Ash is a soft, unpasteurised, goat’s milk cheese, made by Cerney Cheese in the Cotswold village of North Cerney, Gloucestershire. The cheese was developed by Lady Isabel Angus in the early 1980s. Having previously lived in Paris, Lady Angus was familiar with goat’s cheese at a time when it was not common in Britain. Having decided to make cheese, she modelled her efforts on the flat-topped-pyramid-shaped Valençay from the Loire valley. As an aside, the legend of the French cheese’s shape is said to have come from Napoleon who, on returning from a disastrous campaign in Egypt, came across a Valençay cheese and was so incensed to be reminded of his defeat that he chopped the top off with his sword.
Lady Angus persuaded a French farmer’s wife to impart her cheese-making wisdom and armed with this and a couple of goats, she began to experiment. The idea was to be self-sufficient but when one of the other villagers began to sell a few of the cheeses, they proved immensely popular. Lady Angus’s daughter-in-law Janet manages the business now, their cheese-maker is Avril Pratt and the milk is sourced from two local suppliers. Other than that though, little has changed, with the cheeses all being made by hand.
On the first day, the milk is heated and rennet and a starter culture are added. The next day, the curds are ladled into moulds and left to drain. On day three, they are taken from the moulds and sprinkled with a mixture of oak ash and sea salt. They mature for just a few days before being ready to eat, although can be stored for several weeks more.
Cerney has a firm but giving texture, like the inside of a chocolate truffle or a good quality ice-cream. It tastes fresh and lemony throughout, with only the faintest hint of goat when it’s young but which develops if you keep it for a while longer. A great cheese for a cheeseboard or to eat in salads or melted through roasted vegetables.
Disclosure: I was sent an English Selection Box by Pong Cheese for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own.