Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Cheese of the Month - Baltic, Doddington Dairy

The existence of the Liverpool Cheese Company, in a cute end-terrace cottage in Woolton Village, is proof that the nicest things can turn up in the unlikeliest of places. Most people - even most Liverpudlians - would have to make a special effort to find this shop, tucked away on the outskirts of the village and hardly conspicuously advertised, and yet those who did would be rewarded with a range of cheeses and depth of knowledge from the staff to rival anywhere in London.

The stocked cheeses were from all over the world, albeit with a healthy - and proper - bias towards the North West of England. Mrs. Kirkham's was there, of course, so we snapped up a block of that, and something called Barkham Blue which tasted nice enough in the shop but didn't really improve in turning room temperature later on so I won't dwell on it. What did impress was Baltic, a soft cheese made in the North-East but crucially with its rind washed in Summer Ale from the Baltic Fleet microbrewery and pub just a few minutes walk from the Albert Dock in Liverpool. I was told that the two parties responsible for Doddington Dairy and the Liverpool brewery respectively met while at university together, and that after going their separate ways decided to collaborate on a joint food project some years later. It's a lovely story, and shows that where other cheeses have hundreds of years of history on their side, new cheeses have to fight their corner with expertise and a genuine love of the product.

As with Stinking Bishop, the rind washing is a very subtle process and you should probably not expect an overwhelmingly explicit taste of beer (or indeed perry) on tasting; instead, the alcohol on the rind adds just a slight tang to complement the salty flesh inside. However, it's texture that is Baltic's strongest point - a spongey enough flesh to be satisfying to bite into but firm enough to contrast well with the slightly harder rind. It is a harder cheese than Stinking Bishop but has the same pattern of tiny bubbles and would certainly match up well next to many continental cheeses of the same style.

On Sunday afternoon I bumped into Ian and Vicky of the LCC again as they manned their stall at the Hope Street Farmers' Market, and gave them my feedback on our purchases from the previous day. Embarassingly, Barkham Blue turns out to be Ian's favourite, but admittedly I was in the minority in those tasting the cheese on Saturday evening too. It also went very well in salad. But it's the Baltic that I will really remember, a fine cheese with special provenance and a very deserving Cheese of the Month.


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