Famous cheesemakers trade truckles

TWO of the country’s most respected cheesemakers, Quicke’s of Devon and Montgomery’s of South Somerset, have revealed the  results of a pioneering experiment in which truckles of their farmhouse Cheddar cheeses traded places to be aged in each other’s stores.

Cheesemongers, chefs, affineurs,  cheesemakers and buyers met Mary Quicke and James Montgomery, at The Cheese Bar in Camden Market, to sample a first taste of this unprecedented exchange, which produced dramatic results that will help the experts to understand the centuries-old mysteries of traditional clothbound cheddar.

The traded truckles brought with them a true taste of the land from which they came, so it was the unique microflora in each farm’s maturing rooms which affected the taste, texture and appearance of the cheese.

The experts were astonished by the differences, which ranged from the rind all the way to the centre of the cheese.

Tracey Colley from the Academy of Cheese led a tasting session, beginning with a Quicke’s truckle aged on home soil, with its flavour profile from nose to rind ranging from grassy to brothy. When compared to a Quicke’s truckle from the same batch aged at Montgomery’s, the darker yellow appearance and more acidic aroma was immediately apparent, along with a waxier texture and transformed flavour profile, all attesting to the huge impact of each store’s community of microorganisms on every single aspect of the cheese.

There were more surprises with the Montgomery’s cheddar aged at Quicke’s which had a stronger, brittle rind and more milky centre than the original. A Montgomery’s truckle aged in Devon and returned to Somerset for three months was significantly dryer with a punchy acidity. Shining a light on an underappreciated aspect of the cheesemaking process, this experiment has weaved a new dimension into the concept of terroir in cheddar.

Looking ahead to the next stage of this research, Vince Razionale, director of product development at Grafton Village Cheese in Vermont, plans to expand the group to four cheddars, producing 20 samples for analysis. The project is funded by a $5,000 scholarship from the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award, which provides an annual grant for research into the history, culture and techniques of cheesemaking in Europe. It is hoped that the research will lead to a deeper understanding of the role that microflora plays in the delicate balance of science and art in cheesemaking.