Davidstow’s new cheddar cheeses are just perfect.

You thought it was just another ordinary supermarket cheddar?

Davidstow’s new cheeses have been long years in the making. Great for cooking yet can stand alone on the cheese board. A ‘Crackler’ and a ‘Classic’ which are without a word of a lie, my very favourite cheddars.

Keeping true to their Cornish roots, the team at Davidstow have partnered with, Nathan Outlaw, one of the most celebrated chefs in Cornwall. Nathan endorses both cheeses as being able to be a ‘stand alone’ cheese on a cheese board, but also a versatile and excellent ingredient for cooking.

Two of Nathan’s collection of traditional Cornish recipes represent a nod to the past with a contemporary twist is included here. I’ve tried them both and they are absolutely delicious!

Classic Cheddar  & Crab Tart (6 as a starter, 4 for lunch)

500g all-butter pastry block, de-frosted
6 free range eggs
600ml double cream
Cornish sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g Davidstow Classic Cheddar Cheese, diced into small cubes
2 tbsp chopped tarragon
2 bunches spring onions, sliced
250g fresh white crab meat
50g fresh brown crab meat

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7, 220ºC (425ºF).  Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin and line a 4cm deep, 20cm round loose bottom flan tin.  Line the pastry with a circle of greaseproof paper and baking beans.  Chill for 10 minutes. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and baking beans.  Brush the inside of the pastry with egg wash and turn the oven down to gas mark 4, 180ºC (350ºF).   Mix the eggs and cream together and season. Sprinkle the cheese, tarragon, spring onion and crab over the tart case and pour over the egg mixture. Bake for 25 minutes until the custard is set and the pastry is golden brown. When the tart is cool slice and serve with a simple seasonal salad.

Crackler Cheese Straws (16 large straws, 22 small)

150g Davidstow Crackler Cheddar Cheese, finely grated
200g plain flour
Smoked paprika (or spice of choice)

100g butter, plus extra for greasing
freshly ground black pepper
1 free range egg yolk

Preheat the oven to Gas 7, 220ºC (425ºF).  Lightly grease a large baking sheet and cover it with greaseproof paper.  Put the cheese into a mixing bowl. Sift in the flour and add a sprinkling of smoked paprika. Add some freshly ground black pepper and mix.  Cut the butter into little cubes and rub them into the mixture with your fingertips. When the butter has almost disappeared into the flour and you have a crumbly mixture, stir in the egg yolk with a butter knife.
Gather the pastry into a ball of dough.  Dust the work surface with plenty of flour. Carefully roll out the cheese dough into a rough square. It should be about 5mm thick. Neaten the edges with the side of your hand.
With a sharp knife, cut the square into strips, then each strip into fingers. Gently lift them on to the lined baking sheet, leaving a little space between each one.  Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about eight minutes. The cheese straws should be a very pale golden brown. They are fragile when they come out of the oven, so leave them to sit for five minutes before you try to move them. Then carefully lift up the baking parchment and transfer everything to a wire rack to cool for a few more minutes.

“I eat cheese for a living,” declares Mark Pitts-Tucker as he takes a cheese iron, the tool of his trade, and bores a hole into a pristine block of buttery-yellow cheddar. Ponderously inhaling the first whiff along the whole length of the extracted cheese plug before popping a piece in his mouth to sample. “I taste around 700 bits of cheese in a week. One thing’s for sure, I won’t be getting osteoporosis!” he says.

The cheese is inspected for its body, texture and flavour. “People under estimate the importance of texture. How it feels on the tongue effects the way we taste the cheese,” Mark enthuses. “Flavour is described by its style – bright, fresh and zesty – and by the level. Does it tickle the gills? Davidstow cheese falls into the same category as Cornish butter, cream and ice cream as ‘rich’ and ‘smooth’. You easily want to eat more of it.”

Mark is the specialist cheese grader for Davidstow. “Grading and selection is the art of nurturing nature”, he explains “as the cheese matures the cheese grader will spend many hours refining the collection: tasting, checking balance, firmness, body an texture and removing any cheese that does not meet these exacting standards.” Like a master winemaker, it takes years of dedication to perfect the art. The results, however, make it all worthwhile.

The Davidstow creamery has been perfecting the art of cheddar making for 60 years. Built on what was once a wartime aerodrome in North Cornwall, it sits right in the middle of dairy rich country. I’m assured, that the secret to make great cheese needs the very best milk; the best milk needs the best grass and Cornwall, with its gentle, year-round rainfall and warm summer sunshine, has the perfect climate for growing great grass. The Davidstow line is that this is cheese ‘made with a Cornish point of view’.

However, to say it is just a favourable climate producing Cornwall prized local milk that makes Davidstow so special would be only telling half the story. The meticulous cheese making process begins with the right recipe, unique to Davidstow and a closely guarded secret mastered over the decades, and by combining milk from many of the best farms in Cornwall. In cheese making, once the curd is formed and the cheese is pressed it is at this point that the painstaking practice of grading and selection begins.

The ultimate truth in all this rain-grass-milk-recipe and careful grading correlation is that Davidstow consistently produces multi award winning cheddars. Being named ‘Reserve Supreme Champion UK’ at the 2009 Nantwich International Cheese Show is a fine endorsement; just as repeatedly winning prizes at other regional, national and international cheese shows are constant proof of a great product.

The taste of one of Davidstow’s cheddars is best described by me as “Extremely yummy,” and by Mark, who really knows what he is talking about, as “alive with complexity, buttery smooth character, flinty texture and intense flavour.” Meanwhile, I can only nod enthusiastically, “Mmm,” I agree, “very more-ish.” My palette is full of creamy cheese. “Still it’s far from overpowering and frankly,” Mark adds, “made the way it should be, the Cornish way.”

From my point of view, I’m already a convert. I don’t need to be persuaded of the deliciousness of Davidstow cheese as I already eat it.  Davidstow has been sold for years under the retailer brand of all major supermarkets, and without a word of a lie, is already my preferred cheddar choice.

I’ve always thought that while Davidstow cheddar is sold under the different supermarket brands it somewhat hides the fact that Davidstow deserves to be viewed as more distinguished. The news that Davidstow cheese about to be sold under it’s own banner I meet with delight. It has taken time. Nine slow years for Mark in taste trials, and developments, but ultimate patience and careful crafting have resulted in two very special premium cheddars to sell under their own brand and fly the Cornish standard: Davidstow ‘Cornish Classic’ mature cheddar and new Davidstow ‘Cornish Crackler’ extra mature cheddar. The ‘Cornish Classic’ is matured for up to 14 months and with its intense flavour is perfect for anyone who expects a little more from an everyday cheese. The ‘Cornish Crackler’ is matured for over 20 months and develops a coarser texture a distinctive edge with a more rugged, flinty flavour. “Not so rough as to not have manners,” says Mark, “it’s still soft and creamy.  It’ll mug you with your handbag and apologise to you afterwards!”

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