World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Flower Marie from the UK
Country: UK 🇬🇧
Region: East Sussex
Made from: Sheep’s milk
Taste: Citrusy, mushroomy, sweet, tangy
Aging: at least 3 weeks
Flower Marie is a small, delicate mold ripened cheese made from sheep’s milk. It is made by Kevin and Alison Blunt of the Golden Cross Cheese at their Greenacres Farm near Lewes in southern England. The name Flower Marie is inspired from the Corsican sheep cheese, 'Fleur de Maquis'. The Blunts have formulated the produce to be suitable for vegetarians by using vegetable rennet to coagulate the milk.
Soft in texture, the milk is sourced from a herd of Friesland-Dorset sheep fed on grass, hay and maize silage. Coagulation of the curd for Flower Marie is a slow, lactic set taking about 18 hours. The curd is ladled by hand to conserve as much moisture as possible before being put into the distinctive cube shaped molds to drain. After unmolding, cheeses are brined before being transferred to maturing rooms for about three weeks, prior to release. Some cheeses are aged further.
At the end of three weeks the square molds develop a bloomy, pinkish rind. The interior paste of the cheese is ivory-white in color, with a meltingly soft texture, reminiscent of ice cream when ripe. This aromatic cheese is mushroomy, sweet and slightly citrusy in flavour. As it ages, Flower Marie develops more intense flavours but also softens down.
Both Kevin and Alison Blunt have science backgrounds, and, having decided on a change of career, were able to buy a basic, small holding in East Sussex, where they started out with just a few goats and egg laying hens. Initially they sold goat's milk until 1979, when local goat cheese maker Regis Du Sartre decided to retire and Kevin and Alison were able to buy some of his recipes, as well as his herd of goats.
They now own 240 milking goats, including British Saanen, Toggenburg and Alpine, and make a small, high quality selection of goat cheeses. They launched their Golden Cross Cheese Co. in 1989.
The development and recipe for Flower Marie came from a collaboration with well known cheesemaker James Aldridge. The name 'Flower Marie' comes from the anglicized version of the Corsican sheep cheese 'Fleur de Maquis'.
Today Golden Cross is respected for its handmade goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses. Kevin and Alison are joined by their son, Matthew, in crafting an average of 240 small ivory blocks of white-mold-ripened, brine-washed Flower Marie daily (as the cheese matures, mushroom and caramel notes dominate and the paste turns soft and oozing).
How to enjoy it
This is a rich, fudgy-textured cheese with a pillowy bloom on the rind. Because of the moisture content the flavours can be quite intense, with grassy, earthy overtones and the sweet vegetal essence of the ewe's milk coming to the fore. As it matures the proteins break down the pate under the rind, and a balanced rich sweetness takes the helm. Ideal with red wines and excellent with a crisp sauvignon blanc.
Sources: lafromagerie.co.uk, cheese.com, culturecheesemag.com