The Cheeseboard – Camelot

food-cheeseboardjamieJAMIE Montgomery is a big wheel in the artisan cheese world. His Montgomery Cheddar, made on the farm in North Cadbury, just to the north of Yeovil, is the byword for unpasteurised traditional West Country Cheddar, and now the “go to” variety for French epicures who are latterly discovering that the rosbifs can and do make spectacularly good cheese. The washed-rind Ogleshield that he makes from Jersey milk, rather than the Friesians he milks for his cheddar is another highly regarded cheese.

He’s now experimenting with a third variety, dubbed Camelot. Again using unpasteurised Jersey milk, this cheese contains an ingredient that exercises Jamie no end when used in cheddar – the Lactobacillus Helveticus starter culture that ‘modern’ cheddars are using alongside the traditional starter so that the cheese delivers a sweeter and nuttier flavour – popular particularly in export markets. Jamie sees no place for L. Helveticus in the classic cheddar flavour range, but now he’s embracing it wholeheartedly for his newest creation.

Camelot is made in a similar style to Comte, France’s most popular cheese, yet could not be described as such, even had it been made within the original region. That’s because Jamie’s Jersey milk is creamier than the registered Comte recipe allows. A higher fat level from winter forage fed cows is the reason why Comte is seasonal – and during the winter the fattier milk is deployed to make Vacherin and other cheeses. Jamie visited the Jura Mountains to see how Comte is made, learned the potential pitfalls from the experts and has come up with a cheese that owes a lot to its influences, but is still characteristically “Montgomery”.

food-cheeseboardEach Camelot is a huge flattish round, almost a metre across and weighing well over 20 kilos. A crusty rind conceals a gloriously yellow interior paste, with evidence of the slightly crunchy crystals that are a feature of aged mountain cheeses. It’s a little firmer than some Comte, but is creamy and nutty, sweet and savoury. I know that this cheese comes from the West Country, but in my more flamboyant moments I might project the tastes of the floral Alpine meadows onto this cheese. We enjoyed it at room temperature, with some Dorset charcuterie and some cornichons – the Dorset sparkling cider in the picture a welcome partner.

Justin Tunstall, Town Mill Cheesemonger, Lyme Regis DT7 3PU