This - a smoked version of Pennard Vale goat's cheese - is a firm, pale coloured cheese that has a close, smooth, creamy texture. On smoking the flavour of this goat's cheese develops a rich smoky tone that compliments the nuttiness wonderfully. Made by Phil Rainbow and Anita Robinson who, together, are the Somerset Cheese Company.
Note that in its original form, Pennard Vale is a cheddar-style hard cheese, which may give you some idea of its character.
Somerset Cheese Co.
Drive deep into Somerset’s cheese country and make your way to the village of Ditcheat (pronounced ditch-it), a few miles south of Shepton Mallet. Perched up on the top of a hill, near a famous racing stables, you’ll find Ditcheat Hill Farm, home since 2005 to the Somerset Cheese Company.
People had been telling Phil Rainbow for years that he ought to be making his own cheese. After all, he’d been making it for other people - Ford Farm, Monastery Cheese, Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co. - since the mid 60s. What finally tipped the balance was the encouragement of two friends, Anita and Nick Robinson. They’d known each other for a while - Anita had been Phil’s assistant at one time - but now the time seemed right to take the plunge. Phil had the experience and Anita was ready for a new challenge. Plus a fully equipped dairy was available to rent at Ditcheat Hill Farm. With the help of Nick - and a lot of hard work - the buildings were brought up to scratch and the new dairy was born.
Phil had a lot of experience in the ‘other’ milks - ewe, goat and buffalo, so the concept was to steer away from cow’s milk and produce a range of naturally rinded cheddar-style hard cheeses, mainly in a 2kg size to suit
the deli trade. Among the ones you’ll find in The Cheese Shed are Fosseway Fleece (ewe), Pendragon (buffalo) and Pennard Vale (goat), the last of which brought them the serious accolade of Best Goat’s Cheese at the 2010 British Cheese Awards.
Asked about the ‘artisan’ aspect of what he does, Phil points out that the making of his cheese is overseen by one person from start to finish. This makes for attention to detail and consistency of quality. The milk changes subtly through the year and he’s able to make subtle changes to the process to accommodate this. Plus he evaluates each batch, occasionally tweaking the recipe in order to increase quality still further. In a big creamery these talks are undertaken by a team; Phil’s cheeses are the result of one man’s vision and skill.
Recently the range has expanded with - finally - the addition of a cheddar, the superb raw milk Six Spires. This completes the range, meaning that their market stall features cheeses with all the different milks. And let’s face it: if there’s one thing you should never underestimate, it’s the British public’s appetite for cheddar!