The Cheeseboard – Dorset Red

foodprod-cheeseboardredIT’s a sad fact that Britain’s biggest selling “smoked” cheese isn’t actually smoked: look at the labelling and you’ll see that Applewood is described as “smoke-flavoured” and “smoky”. We won’t sell it in our shop – if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly.

Our suggestion to anyone who arrives looking for this ersatz market leader is to try a modern cheese from the Bride Valley, namely Dorset Red. Developed at Ford Farm, Dorset Red is now a firm favourite with the public and cheese judges alike, having added to its tally with a prestigious Gold Medal from the British Cheese Awards earlier this year.

It’s made like a Red Leicester: pasteurised Dorset milk from Friesian herds and vegetarian rennet are used in this instance. A vegetable food dye, Annato, is added to the curds to give a warm colour. The cheese is aged, graded, then cut and taken to the smokery where it’s smoked over oak chippings. During this process it develops a rich red exterior – a fully edible rind.

I always enjoy the colour contrasts between the interior paste of a cheese and its rind – or perhaps more accurately, its smoke-exposed border. A paler cheese can remind me of a tan-line – the rich, deep coloration seen here makes me think of Capstan Full Strength! A slightly more open texture than one gets from a Cheddar means that the smokey flavour seems to go more deeply into the cheese, giving a truly satisfying taste for smoke lovers. The cheese is smooth in texture and offers a velvety creaminess in contrast to the smoke. Barbecues, evening picnics and leisurely days at the cricket spring to mind.

Earlier this year, we were asked to cater for a visit from the Earl and Countess of Wessex – I put together a “patriotic” selection of Dorset Red, Dorset White and Dorset Blue Vinny, which I thought should appeal to the royal couple. Indeed, Dorset Red immediately caught Sophie’s eye and she took the proffered sample, only to ask for a napkin to which she could remove it from her mouth. Not a lover of smoked cheese, she’d been attracted to its visual credentials as a Red Leicester type – we always ask shoppers if they’ve previously tasted this cheese and alert them to its smokiness before cutting it for them to buy.

Recommended drink pairings include Muscadet, Soave or, to keep it fully West Country, a dry cider. We’ve converted many an Applewood fan to this non-faux delight and it’s quickly become a top seller in the shop.

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