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.