Chiswick Cheese Market Sunday 16 April

Putting a SPRING into your step at the Chiswick Cheese Market……

Guest blog by Lucy Cufflin

Last month I introduced the idea of ‘affinage’ (maturation) to show just how the flavour and texture of a cheese can be influenced by where and how it is kept once the initial cheese making has taken place (i.e the curds and whey are separated), but as spring, springs into action, I am also reminded of how the actual milk affects the end product.

So, the nerdy bit – obviously the main ingredient is milk. Animals produce milk to feed their young and although many farmers manage reproduction in milking herds so there is a constant supply of milk all year round there will be a difference between summer and winter milks.

Not rocket science here – animals cannot live outside in the fields 365 days of the year and there is not grass to eat all year round so there will portions of the year where the animals are fed hay and shelter indoors. The milk they produce will be different – of course it will.

Even outdoors the season makes a difference – super-rich spring meadows crammed full of clover will give a different milk to the late drier summer grass. At the beginning of an animal’s milking period the first milks are high in proteins and fats so the cheese can be richer than those made late summer milk – so the cheese will be different!

Some cheeses are only produced seasonally – meaning the herd is not offering milk till the spring and by then they are out and about chomping away at the new grass and offering up a fresher more floral milk. It’s still early in the cheese calendar, but here are some seasonal spring cheeses to look out for at the market.

Image above: It’s all about the milk and the quality of your herd and its pasture

St James – find it @no2poundstreet stall. Made by Martin Gott and partner Nicola in Cumbria with milk form their own herd of Lacaune ewes (same variety of goat that are used to make Roquefort) – it is made in a square mould and washed for 3-4 weeks with brine to give it a recognisable orange rind.

It is soft and delicate when eaten fresh and young and becomes squidgier in texture and bolder in flavour as it ages. The first batches are out now!

Brunet – find it @gastromnoicaboroughmarket stall. Medhi has a wealth of fabulous Italian cheeses that he selects in person in Italy and then imports to the UK in small batches. Brunet is named after the longhaired brown goats from which the milk comes and is made in the Piedmont.

Although it’s not exclusive to this time of year as it is only 10 days – three weeks old when it is sold this time of year the cheese is exceptional.

The pastures are rich after the winter snow, bursting with flowers and this flavour is reflected in the cheese. It can be chalky to creamy, gooey to runny all in a single slice. It is rich and utterly decadent but it has a slight tang which keeps it from being sickly – perfect piled high on bruschetta and when the asparagus arrives the flavour combo is sublime!

Image above: Mothais sur feuille

Mothais sur feuille – find this cheese @thefrenchcomte stall. Roberto brings some of France’s finest cheeses to Chiswick each month and there will be an abundance of new season goats and sheep cheese on his stall and he will be keen to tell you about them.

But if you have not tried one of my favourite cheeses yet, this is the time of year to give it a go. Made of goat’s milk and aged for 2-3 weeks in a particularly humid atmosphere to bring it along to full flavour quickly, this cheese has a soft texture that become denser and almost chewy as it ages – earthy, lemony with a bolder, more pungent flavour as it ages.

I love it with an aperitif – crisp white or even Champagne, but Ian my partner loves it after dinner with a mellow single malt.

These are just three to look out for but ask any of our lovely traders and producers about their spring cheeses and with specialist fresh goats cheese producers like Nut Knowle Farm there will be plenty to choose from.

Image above: Cobblers nibble; Hamm Tunn fine foods

A shout out loud from the roof tops

Cobbler’s nibble is back! Gary from Hamm Tunn Fine Foods is back this month at the market, after recovering from a fire in the dairy they are once again producing and bringing their amazing cheese to market – not tried it? It’s a must for blue cheese lovers.

And a little note on how good cheese is for you – cheese is a fermented product – it’s not like scoffing fresh cream and milk – ‘fermentation’ is the buzz word around gut health and more and more research is showing that artisanal made cheeses do not increase bad cholesterol levels in the body and are infact good for you – so bring it on!

Lots of articles out there but here’s one to make cheese lovers feel good inside – Reasons eating cheese is actually good for your health.

And talking of fermentation Paul is back @love-fermented with his amazing ferments and kick-ass kimchee – if you have not tried this in a cheese toastie then it’s a must for you in April!

So apart from just feeling good with a bit of sunshine on our shoulders come and enjoy the true flavours of spring @the chiswickcheesemarket next Sunday – see you there!

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