Wednesday, 30 April 2014
Cheese of the Month - Cornish Blue
Philip Stansfield turned to cheese making, in his words, "in desperation", as the bottom fell out of the milk market and it looked like his business was about to go under. Largely self-taught, he didn't know the first thing about how to make cheese as recently as 2001, and the fact that Cornish Blue exists at all is testament both to his enormous bravery and extraordinary passion and skill in finding a way of making his dairy cows earn a better living than the one offered by the gouging, price-fixing supermarkets.
It's still, happily, a very small-scale operation. Milk from Philip's own herd of cows is run through his own pasteurising machine, the curd cut by hand, pressed into moulds and then manually salted and turned before ageing in a couple of converted shipping containers heavy with the scent of ammonia. Animal rennet is normally used but Philip does do a vegetarian version occasionally as required.
All of which would mean little if the final product wasn't up to scratch, and in fact would have made a rather embarrassing moment at the end of our little tour around the farm. But fortunately for all concerned, Cornish Blue isn't just a good cheese, or even a remarkably good cheese given its brief biography and circumstance surrounding its creation. It is, quite honestly, a world-class cheese, right up there with the Roqueforts and Sticheltons and Gorgonzolas of this world, with a salty, creamy flesh and wonderfully vanilla/buttery aftertaste. If that sounds like hyperbole, then you need to try it yourself; if you don't think it deserves a regular spot on your cheeseboard then I'll eat my starter culture.
Philip has a couple more people to help these days, and modest plans for expansion, but once supply is boosted just a little more he plans to hold it steady and let market forces do their work. This softly-spoken man, who has fought the long war in this most difficult of industries, has a glint in his eye when considering this next "retirement fund" stage. It is thoroughly deserved.
I was a guest of Cornish Blue cheese