The Cheese Board

A new monthly column by Justin Tunstall of Town Mill Cheesemonger, Lyme Regis

BEING a cheese judge brings mixed blessings. While it’s an honour and invariably stimulating to spend a day with one’s fellow judges, discussing the qualities of a selection of cheeses, not all of the cheeses submitted are up to snuff. Sometimes a cheese may not have travelled well, it may have over-ripened or just be an aberration from an otherwise perfect day’s making.

Equally, sometimes one gets to have the first experience of something truly new and exciting, as was the case for me this summer. The big find was Cremet, a new cheese from Mike Sharman at the Sharpham Estate in Devon (not to be confused with Somerset’s Sharpham Spelt Farm, owned by Roger Saul).

Mike produces an impressive array of cheeses from his premises alongside the River Dart, mostly using the rich, golden and creamy milk from his own herd of Jersey cows. The roster includes Sharpham itself, a Brie-style cheese, two varieties of Sharpham Rustic, the triple cream Elmhirst, then Ticklemore, a crumbly goat’s cheese, and Savour, a relatively new semi-soft white rinded cheese from mixed cow’s and goat’s milk.

His new creation, the luxury soft cheese Cremet (the ‘t’ hard and pronounced) is a fabulous thing. It’s akin to a goat’s milk brie with the addition of double Jersey cream which delivers the luxurious richness of a conventional triple cream with a lingering undertone of sharp and tangy goatiness. The 800gm disc of white bloomed cheese also has a gorgeous wheat colour to its rind, is some 7 inches across with a deep profile and a beautiful firmly packed, crumbly yet creamy paste. As with most cheeses the really interesting action happens just under the rind and there a ripe, almost golden runniness contrasts with an otherwise ivory interior.

Everyone at our judging session put in a bid to take some of this cheese home with them, making it a popular champion of the Taste of the West’s 2013 cheese category, following on from its stablemate, Ticklemore’s success in 2012.

It’s not easy to find; a runaway success, production struggles to keep pace with demand. Most goes to the London restaurant trade, but do try to taste it. Mike’s not yet had time to create a stylish label as sported by Sharpham’s other cheeses, but aserving suggestion could be with a plain thin cracker, perhaps something like a Peter’s Yard crispbread. Sparkling wines, (Furleigh Estates are particularly good) work well with triple cream cheeses as do Pinot Noir reds. But my best advice is to tuck in, experiment with different accompaniments and discover what works best for you.