A firm, ivory coloured paste and a fabulous flavour.
The village of Berkswell was named after
the Saxon chief, Bercul. He was baptised in the ancient well at the centre
of the village, and the village became known as 'Berculs Well'. Over the
last thousand years, the name has evolved into 'Berkswell'. The eponymously
named cheese is made by a small family run business in the village.
Ram Hall is a sixteenth century farmhouse
with very little changed from the original. Steven Fletcher started as
a dairy farmer, keeping cattle for milk sales only. In the early 1980s
the cattle were slowly replaced with sheep, and it was only through a
quirk of fate that his cheesemaking career took off. A local shop which
used to sell goat's cheese lost their supplier and asked Stephen if he
could make ewe's milk cheese. Never one to shirk a challenge, Stephen
set about the task of making a new ewe's milk cheese from scratch. Originally
made using a recipe for Caerphilly, Berkswell soon developed a character
of its own, more akin to Manchego than the Welsh cheese.
Stephen now has the help of his wife Tessa
and the cheese is made 2-3 times a week from the milk of their flock of
350 Frieslands. Berkswell is a hard full fat (45%) unpasteurised sheep's
milk cheese made with vegetarian rennet. It is matured for up to eight
months and weighs 3-4 kg, measuring 20cm in diameter by 8cm high. Once
matured, the rind becomes heavily textured and pitted.
This cheese goes well on the cheeseboard
as well as being an excellent cooking cheese, with a more delicate flavour
and smooth texture than say a Pecorino. It grates well and is wonderful
in potato dishes. It is also a good alternative to cheddar for those suffering
from cow's milk allergies.