Berkswell cheese: Intoduction
Berkswell is a ewe's milk cheese produced near Coventry, in Warwickshire by Ram Hall Farm dairy which dates from the 16th century. In 1989, this dairy decided to create ewe's milk cheeses which are close to Pyrenean ewe's milk cheeses. With a 20 cm diameter and a 8 cm height, it weighs about 3 kg.
Berkswell has a round shape, the hard and orange rind is striated. The texture is crumbly. The taste of this cheese is mild and nutty. Young, it is delicious eaten on its own, when more mature it is perfect for gratins and pasta.
Fabrication of Berkswell
The ewe's milk, which comes from a local farm is poured into small vats, where it is heated and blended with a solution to raise the acidity.
The curdling is obtained using a vegetarian rennet. After that, the curd is cut into pieces, then heated and stirred. When the desired consistency and temperature are obtained, the curds are removed to be placed in moulds and drained.
In the days following, the cheeses are turned and salted. The aging lasts at least three months. Berkswell is only produced between February and October.
A magnificent looking cheese with distinctive ridges and unusual markings on the thick rind. It weighs around 6lbs abd takes around four months to mature. With a wonderfully clean, firm bite, it is sweet and nutty with a hint of caramel with a definite tang on the finish.
Cheese making of Berkswell
Berkswell cheese is made in small vats. The milk in the vats is warmed and a 'starter culture' added (which develops the lactic acid in the cheese) it is left for a period of time for the acidity to build up; an essential part of the cheese making process. Then a vegetarian rennet (diluted with water) is added, which causes the milk to coagulate; the milk soon sets to resemble the texture of blancmanche and is now referred to as the curd. After a further period the curd is cut into pieces and is heated further, ('scalding'); during this process the curd is stirred. When it is at the desired consistency and temperature, the curd is removed from the vat and the moulds filled. The 'whey', the liquid that separates from the curd is the waste product of the process. (Although this can be used to make ricotta, it is also a useful feed for pigs).
During the next few days the cheeses are turned, salted and given a protective coating, which allows the cheese to retain some of its moisture and reduce cracking. Each cheese is labelled with the date on which it was made and is placed on shelves in a temperature-controlled store, where they continue to be turned regularly, for a minimum of three months. It is during this maturation period that the full flavour of the cheese develops.