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Get your Devon cheese choices right this Christmas

PUBLISHED: 17:23 20 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:02 11 January 2018

Plate of french cheeses close-up

Plate of french cheeses close-up

DmitryLityagin

Devon cheesemongers Ian Wellens of The Cheese Shed and Elise and Gary Jungheim of Country Cheeses take time out with Catherine Courtenay to consider some of their favourites for the festive season – and even reveal a few cheesy jokes

What’s your favourite cheese of the moment?

“I’m in a bit of a love affair with Kern,” says Ian. “Made in Cornwall, it’s the new cheese from Lynher Dairies, makers of the famous nettle-covered Yarg. Kern’s different though - much more mature and a little like a local version of Comté. Just fab.”

Gary and Elise say: “It’s our beautiful Blue Bay. We wouldn’t be without it, and even smuggled some into France while on holiday as it ‘out rocks’ Roquefort.”

Name three West Country cheeses to send as a present

“Your core three cheeses are always likely to be a blue, a brie and a cheddar,” says Ian. “In our Christmas box we’re using the reliably brilliant Cornish Blue and Devon’s own Sharpham for the brie. But why not side-step the obvious and go for a different, but very tasty, type of hard cheese? We’re using Devon Oke this year.”

Gary and Elise went for something personal, their extra special Quicke’s, cut from an 8kg cheese made for them, and also matured by them. They’d also choose Harbourne Blue goats’ cheese and Elmhirst triple cream cheese. “A magical wonder from the Sharpham Estate. Jersey milk with added cream!” they say.

Is there something wild or a bit unusual you’d suggest for Christmas?

Trehill Devon Garlic, according to Gary and Elise. “A mega garlic cheese with a lovely festive green coat.”

Ian says: “Every year we get a soft fresh cheese specially made for us. They’re made and ready to eat in just a couple of days, so they’re mild, refreshing, and yielding in texture. This year’s uses fennel pollen and we think people are going to love it. It’s provisonally called ‘Drogo’.”

What’s the best or quirkiest cheese?

“I do like Pavé Cobble,” says Ian. “But probably this particular prize is always going to be won by Stinking Bishop!”

“It would be Chemmy, our own goats’ log,” say Gary and Elise. “We love downhill skiing and in the early noughties Chemmy Alcott was GB’s best downhiller. As a homage to her we named our beautiful snowy white goats’ log after her. But when we were talking to Dave Johnson who supplied the milk for the cheese he thought we’d called it Chemmy because one of his favourite pedigree goats was also called Chemmy!”

What would be on your perfect cheeseboard for a special occasion?

Gary and Elise conjure up a visual feast: “Start with a huge bit of rustic oak with a piece of the wonderful Sharpham brie-style cheese dribbling over the edge ready to be scooped up with pink peppercorn Peter’s Yard crispbreads. Ooh la la!”

“Resting near to the golden pool of Sharpham loveliness would be a humongous hunk of Vintage Quicke’s or Keen’s cheddar. These are real rinded cheddars with a huge bite - like a playful doberman.

“Then picture a lightly crumbling blue wedge of Beenleigh Blue ewes’ milk cheese, rising above the ‘cheddary’ horizon, like Dartmoor viewed from afar.

“Lying in his sticky orange coat in the lowlands of the blue will be our own Little Stinky, a mischievous dumpling of a cider-washed cheese. Gently honking and with a flavour to please. Finally you will see the bright white and deliciously light, dense and creamy Vulscombe Goat.

“Strewn liberally through the cheese mountains and valleys will be honey caramelised walnuts and cashews and gorgeous little wobbly bits of Devon fruit cheese, a sumptuous sweet reduction; then marinated figs, playfully rolling down the flavoursome slopes of this savoury selection.”

Follow that Ian. ...And he did!

“We’re going to go for top-of-the-range Quicke’s Vintage Cheddar, matured for two years and with a BIG flavour. Then we’ll add a ‘flavour-added’ cheese, Cornish Gouda in the version with fenugreek, guaranteed to leave people fairly stunned (in a good way). Beenleigh Blue has been a favourite ever since we started in 2006 - it’s our answer to Roquefort. Ticking the brie box will be Kelston Park (also known as Bath Soft Cheese when in small, square form) which is just a beautiful organic, unpasteurised version of this classic type.

“Finally, we’ll have an alternative soft cheese, and I’m going for Helford Sunrise. It’s colourful, fruity, whiffy and generally marvellous.”

“Go mad” with the accompaniments, he says. “You want a classic dark pickle of some sort, Clare’s Preserves’ Old Bakehouse Chutney would be the one for me, plus something totally different - there are a couple of Jay Allen’s creations for Hillside which come to mind: either his modern take on piccalilli or the Caramelised Fig Chutney.

“Add in a ‘membrillo’-style sliceable fruit preserve (Dorset’s Global Harvest make several different versions of this). The crackers will be Stag’s water biscuits, Peter’s Yard crispbreads and Oval Alberts. Finally, pickled onions are not to be ignored, especially if they’re our Top Notch ones - enhanced by a little star anise and other spices.

“And that’s a cheese course!”

Find out more about The Cheese Shed by clicking here.

Visit Country Cheeses’ website here.

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