A Typical Cheese Counter At The Cheese Shed
One of the lovely things about having a shop is the counter. We use it to showcase a selection of our cheeses, and it changes from one week to the next. Never the same! Across the counter is where we enthuse to our customers about cheese (not hard!), passing samples over for them to try, because after all, talking about it only takes you so far!
Quite a bit of thought goes into each week's display, so I thought I'd take this one - created jointly by André and I - apart for you, letting you know the thinking behind it.
First things. Why does our counter look totally different to any deli you've ever been in? Because the whole room is kept at a cheese-friendly temperature of 11-12°. That means we can have big stacks of whole cheese out, unwrapped; it also means we can create stunning, architectural displays which are fun and look great. They're all hard cheeses, by the way - lots of the soft ones are happier cooler, so we keep them in a fridge.
Take a look at the bottom left picture. It features two things that any Cheese Shed counter will feature: a traditional cheddar and a blue. The cheddar is Keens - and you can see form the label that it's about 15 months old - so it's a lovely tangy thing. That's a cheese which has been made by one family for 123 years; next to it, though, is a real newcomer - Cranborne Blue. A mild blue (not everything has to blow your head off), it's made in Dorset by Peter Morgan. And next to that is Smart's Double Gloucester.
By the way! Look at the top of that picture. Do you see a little steel box sitting up on a shelf? That's our Coquard humidifier: it keeps the shop nice and damp, something cheese loves. Temperature and humidity control are key to this space.
I mentioned the Smart's - now, in the picture t top right is another British regional classic (and another mellow, mild cheese): Gorwydd Caerphilly. Next to that is something quite unusual. Pendragon is based on a cheddar recipe but it uses buffalo milk. The 'domestic water buffalo' is a relative of modern cattle and much more common in Italy - where its milk is used to make mozzarella - and Eastern Europe. Pendragon is therefore a rarity. With its subtly different flavour, it's an interesting thing to stock.
Speaking of subtle differences, let's move to the picture at top left. That's where you can see the semi-soft Sharpham Savour - interesting on two counts. One is that is has the white mould rind familiar from bries and camemberts, but it's a much firmer cheese. Savour's big claim to fame, however, is that it's 'mixed milk': cow and goat. And there aren't many of those! Comes either plain or with caraway seeds. On the left of Savour is a flat, shallow cheese with a pinky rind, and that's our exclusive Trendlebere: a met-in-your-mouth young goats' cheese which has been smoked. We always like to have at least one smoked cheese on the counter.
And finally, cast your eyes over to the last picture, at the bottom right. The tall stack is our own Bovey Straight - made in north Devon and matured by us (actually in the shop) until it develops a huge flavour that our customers love. Next to that, two more flavoured cheeses, Chipple (spring onions) and Simply Cumin.
It's all about variety, Tradition meets innovation, old meets new, the familiar sits next to the never-seen-before. Just on this one counter there are huge contrasts of texture, flavour and strength. There are cheeses which are very straightforward - for people who like that - and others where an extra process (smoking) or flavouring has been employed. There are cheeses made with different milks. It's all good fun. And next week ... it'll be 'all change'.
Do drop in if you can. I think it's an exciting experience. But don't forget, if you can't get down here, we can send any of these cheeses to you, by good old mail order.