Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Cheese of the Month - Cornish Yarg


If ever there was an appropriately evocative name for a cheese, it's Yarg. Sounding like some ancient Celtic dialect and delightfully mirroring the long round syllables of the west country accent, it feels like it could have been part of Cornish life for thousands of years. The truth however, is rather more prosaic - Yarg is simply Gray spelled backwards, and named after Allan and Jenny Gray who started manufacturing the cheese at their farm in the 1970s. It is, I am told, from an old recipe, but even so, it's sad how much of our culinary heritage has to be salvaged or re-imagined completely or, like Stichelton, renamed to avoid the wrath of the EU lawyers (it's not quite from close enough to Stilton town to be called Stilton, apparently, even though the recipe is as authentically Stilton as anything).

The defining feature of Yarg is its coating of mouldy nettle leaves, which impart a delicate musty, savoury flavour to the rind. This is all very well, but in fact I wouldn't recommend eating a slice of Yarg without the adjoining rind, as the flesh itself is in comparison rather one-dimensional. It's a perfectly decent cheese of course, fresh and creamy with a pleasant soft texture, but yet again it all comes down to the p word - Yarg is pasteurised, and without the grassy, farmy flavour of unpasteurised milk these hard cheeses really tend to suffer. I couldn't help thinking back to the wonderful Keen's cheddar served at the Draft House Tower Bridge a few nights earlier, which although superficially similar in style was worlds apart in taste. Sure, Yarg may travel well and be less demanding to keep, but is it worth that trade-off? This is where your local cheesemonger earns their extra pennies of course - maturing the unpasteurised cheeses, knowing when they're ready, keeping them properly. With Yarg, you could just take the clingfilm off and serve it all year round and it would taste consistently Yarg-y. Less hassle perhaps, but where's the love?


I was very kindly sent the Yarg to try from Forman and Field, more famous (in London at least) for their home-smoked artisan salmon and gravadlax, but also boasting a decent selection of interesting cheeses on their delivery menu. And you'll be pleased to know that many of them, such as the excellent Montgomery's Cheddar and peerless Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire, are unpasteurised, so you should be able to construct a pretty decent cheeseboard providing you have plenty of guests coming - minimum order on most is a whacking 500g. Then again, despite my misgivings about the Yarg I still happily devoured it in record time. And if you can't have enough merely decent cheese, you can definitely never have enough of the good stuff.

6/10

11 comments:

BeccaRothwell said...

I thought Stichelton was so named because it was made with unpasteurised milk and back when the protected status rules for exactly how and where Stilton has to made to qualify as Stilton were set down some foolish person included that the milk had to be pasteurised to count. Thus, unpasteurised Stilton can't be Stilton, and so Stichelton was born. Is that wrong?

ruduss said...

I usually buy yarg for those unadventurous types of people (also referred to as pasteurised-only cheese eaters). Just for good measure (and for the effect), I usually place this right next to a very very ripe epoisse.

Lizzie said...

I really enjoyed the yarg; beautifully creamy.

Lost in the Larder said...

I am all for unpasturised cheeses, you get so much more out of the cheese. Not to say I don't enjoy others, such as yarg, but when given the choice...

Kavey said...

Ever since uni (which is a scarily long time ago for me) a bunch of uni friends have been going on holiday together somewhere in the UK. We rent a very big house in the country, far posher now than they were 15+ years ago. These days there are more kids and (a very little) less drunken revelling. But the annual holidays continue.

In the late 1990s, one of the very first was in Cornwall and, looking for things to do, someone found out about Yarg and the fact they were open to visitors. They had a tiny visitors room in which you were first shown a short video (where we learned about the origin of the name) before a tour of (some) of the production areas.

It was fascinating, but sadly, I never did like the cheese, now or then. Too mild and nothingy for me, even with it's nettle and ash rind coverings...

Chris said...

BeccaRothwell: Having done a bit more... OK, having done SOME actual research, it turns out you're right! I don't know where I heard the other story from, but anyway yes - Stichelton can't be called Stilton because it uses unpasteurised milk. And tastes better :)

George@CulinaryTravels said...

I really enjoy Yarg, it has a lovely creaminess.

Catweasel said...

BeccaRothwell et al,
Both pieces are correct - Stilton enjoys EU Protected status, and the recipe lodged under that status insists on pasteurised milk (additional restriction is that it be made in Leicestershire, Derbyshire, or Nottinghamshire - within a radius of a certain point; being in the vicinity of Stilton - which is in Cambridgeshire - doesn't come into it). However, in the same way that Stichelton has gone back to using unpasteurised milk, so it's using the old name for the village of Stilton!

Al said...

Yummy Yarg - I love it. First discovered at 15 Cornwall a couple of years ago and always look out for it!

Philip Frampton said...

I know this is an old entry on your blog but it is the first to come up when searching for info on whether Yarg is pasteurized (a temporary limitation).

My comment is about Stilton. It was unpasteurized but as a initially temporary measure they started pasteurizing around the time of a food scare. Shortly after the PDO was granted. So now, whether they want to or not, the old Stilton producers can't change back and keep the name.

Stichleton is a lovely cheese, but difficult to obtain and relatively unheard outside the local area or the large cities with good cheesemongers.

Philip Frampton said...

I know this is an old entry on your blog but it is the first to come up when searching for info on whether Yarg is pasteurized (a temporary limitation).

My comment is about Stilton. It was unpasteurized but as a initially temporary measure they started pasteurizing around the time of a food scare. Shortly after the PDO was granted. So now, whether they want to or not, the old Stilton producers can't change back and keep the name.

Stichleton is a lovely cheese, but difficult to obtain and relatively unheard outside the local area or the large cities with good cheesemongers.