Not many cheeses that we sell are in a class of one - but James and David Bartlett's 'Dumpling' is! This dreamily soft ewes' milk offering is what's known as a 'lactic' cheese. This means that very little rennet is used - the milk just sets slowly using its own acidity, a bit like yoghurt. It's a beautiful sweet cheese with a very pleasing texture and a lovely wrinkled surface.
Dumpling has a coat of downy white mould and sometimes a bit of blue mould as well, which is not something to worry about and perfectly safe to eat. Often there will be no blue, sometimes small spots - our pictured version has quite a lot!
Vegetarian, organic, unpasteurised
Wootton Organic Dairy
Campaigners for 'real cheese' in the 1990s were looking above all for unpasteurised cheese, with its greater depth and complexity of flavour. They also pointed out that there was a shortage of organic cheeses. Today, in the hamlet of North Wootton near Shepton Mallet in Somerset, brothers David and James Bartlett make four great cheeses which tick both of these boxes.
On the family farm, with its slopes looking across to Glastonbury Tor, they initially produced organic ewes' milk for sale, before taking over a cheese recipe from renowned maker Mary Holbrook. This was the small mould-ripened (and unpasteurised) Little Ryding. Wootton Organic Dairy was born.
Later, cheese no. 2 was brought in. Old Burford is another soft cheese - with the same downy white rind - but this time made with bought-in organic Jersey cows' milk.
The specially creamy quality of that milk makes lovely cheese (as anyone who has tried Sharpham Rustic will know).
The most recent additions, around 2004, were two hard cheeses, Millstone (ewe) and Ringwell (cow - Jersey milk again). Made using an essentially similar recipe, these are hard-ish, dry-ish, and crumbly - in the case of the former. They mature for about 5 months and feature especially beautiful rinds, in terms of both texture and colour.
The Bartletts haven't gone the obvious route. Unpasteurised, organic ewes' milk cheese could be described as a niche within a niche within a niche! But when I visited in October 2009, David told me there was more interest all the time, so the no-compromise approach was obviously paying off. Sometimes you just have to go with your instincts!