Saturday, 7 January 2012


One of the phrases of 2011 which kept croping up in the cheese world was the notion of "3D flavour" achieved by the use of animal rennet in cheesemaking. Charlie Westhead's goats' cheeses were often noted for their depth of flavour resulting from both his use of kid's rennet in the make, and unpasteurised milk.
It is hard to describe in words what the term "3D flavour" means, but I suppose the easiest way to desribe it is a round, deep and interesting taste experience, as opposed to a flat, one dimentional flavour profile. In a wholistic and pureist approach to cheesemaking, the milk should be coagulated using rennet extracted from the same animal - so calves rennet for cow's milk cheese, lamb's rennet from sheeps' milk and kid's rennet for goats' milk. It seems the most natural way of cheesemaking (which is in essence a natural process, controlled to a varying extent by the hand of man).
Charlie Westhead's Ragstone and Dorstone goats' cheeses are amongst the most well made, interesting and sensual cheeses of their type in the UK. The cheeses are made at Neal's Yard Creamery, situated on a hill above Hay-On-Wye, in Herefordshire's Golden Valley, using the unpasteurised milk from a local goat farm.
They both start off life as the same product - a lactic set curd slowly coagulated over night, from both acid development and a very small amount of kid's rennet. The kid's rennet gives the  complexity of flavour in the cheeses as well as strengthening the coagulation; turning what would otherwise by a yoghurt-like structure into a delicate white gel.
If Ragstone is being made, the curd is ladled into long, thin, drainpipe-like moulds which are refilled several times as the curd sinks from gravity and the expulsion of whey from ladling.
If Dorstone is being made, the curds are placed in pillow-case like cheese cloths to pre-drain as a mass under minimal gravity, giving a lighter, more moussey texture with lower moisture and acidity.
The drained curd is scooped into small moulds to form, and firm up into small, individual cheeses.
Where as Ragstone is brined, Dorstone is dry salted and dusted with wood ash to control moisture loss and lower the surface acidity, creating a good environment for a thin geotrichum coating.
After 2-3 weeks ripening, Dorstone is ready for eating, with a wrinkled, blue/grey rind scattered with white, downy mould, and a light, fluffy interior.

The cheese has a delicious balence of acidity and rich, sweet cream, with both zesty, bright flavours and a softer nuttyness. As well as being a beautiful addition to any cheese plate, I like to cook with Dorstone. Whether it is grilled on sourdough and sat on a few bitter leaves sprinkled with honey, walnuts and fine herbs to make a salad au chèvre chaud, stirred into a risotto or crumbled into a savoury custard to fill a lunch time tart, Dorstone is a versatile little cheese.

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