I follow dozens of cheesemakers from around the world via a variety of social media, emails etc. Hardly an hour goes buy of late that I don’t see a new post with cute newborn goats or sheep. ‘Tis the season. So when I ran across Ticklemore’s Harbourne Blue, a firm, dense goat’s milk blue from Devon, England (and 2010 & 2012 World Cheese Awards winner) it was an easy choice to review this week. It’s a unique cheese that, as far as Neal’s Yard Dairy can ascertain, is the only goat’s milk blue in all of the British Isles.
Robin Congdon was one of the first pioneers in the 1970s to revive the tradition of milking sheep in the UK. Over the next 40 years he grew his operation to include cheesemaking and eventually cheeses featuring the milk of sheep, cows and goats. The cheeses they’ve made have changed over the years, some passed on to other operations. Robin has taken a bit of a back seat of late, after all, 40 years of farm labor is plenty. He brought on cheesemaker Ben Harris about a decade back, and, after learning all aspects of Ticklemore’s operation is now manages the dairy and the is the primary main cheesemaker. Robin still does most of the milk collections. He takes his milk very seriously:
“We believe that the quality of the milk is as important as the skill of the cheesemaker. This is dependent on various factors but especially the health and welfare of the animals; the breeding of the animals; their nutrition and the pasture they graze upon. Making cheese is in no way similar to cooking: the cheesemaker merely steers the milk in a particular direction guided by the quality of the milk itself.”
They’ve hosted other cheesemakers, shared with and taught them to the point where versions of tehir recipes are now made in Argentina, South Africa, North America and Ethiopia.
Ticklemore makes three cheeses in basically the same manner with the exception of the milk used. Their best-known, Beenleigh Blue, is their original, made from ewe’s milk; Devon Blue comes from the Friesian cows of a nearby heard; and Harbourne, from the free-ranging goats of Sue and Will Thompson-Coon’s Buckfast farm on the edge of Dartmoor.
Ticklemore says that Harbourne seems to demonstrate the most variance and seasonality of their three blues, that occasionally it can be quite strong and assertive. The wedge I picked up is mild, sweet, barnyardy and noticeably salty. It is certainly a blue, it’s not noticeably goaty, but rather tastes mostly of cream and that salty barnyard note. Harbourne is very dense and quite crumbly almost like a dry Feta. However, as it melts in your mouth, it is creamy and smooth. Penicillium Roqueforti culture is blended in the milk during the make and, as the cheese is molded and formed, it is then pierced to allow air in. You can see a great example in the pictures of where the cheese was pierced, creating that aerobic environment for the mold to get going. As it is so dense and firm, the mold cannot travel too far, least not unless aged even further.
Cheese: Harbourne Blue
Who: Ticklemore Cheese
Where: Devon, England
Milk Type: goat (pasteurized)
Shape: 7lb 8×6″ wheel
Tasting notes: cream, barnyard, salt, sweet, mild
And speaking of cute “kids”… just saw this pic from Avalanche Cheese company in Colorado: