World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Montgomery's Cheddar from the UK.
Country: United Kingdom 🇬🇧
Made from: Cow’s milk
Texture: Semi-hard, crumbly with a creamy paste
Taste: Nutty, meaty
Aging: 12 to 18 months
An authentic cheddar of cow's milk hand-formed into hulking 60 pound cylinders by James Montgomery in Somerset, England. Each cheese is wrapped with linen and rubbed with lard before cellaring. The farm uses milk only from Montgomery's own herd of 200 Friesian cows. The cheese is made available in a variety of flavour, ageing periods and sizes. Most cheeses are matured for 12 months in a muslin cloth on wooden shelves, while some like Montgomery's Extra Mature Cheddar are aged for 18 months to deliver that special texture and flavour.
The flavour of Montgomery’s Cheddar can vary tremendously. One of the principal reasons for this is that the bulk starter culture is changed every day over the course of a week, with the consequence that each day has its own character, ranging from meaty and savoury to sweet and fruity.
With a savoury flavour developed over more than 12 months of aging; the best wheels of Monty's cheddar have a nutty meatiness described by some as ''reminiscent of the caramelised edge of a Sunday roast”. The texture of Montgomery’s Cheddar is consistently drier than other clothbound Cheddars and it certainly delivers on flavour.
An unusual thing about this cheese is that the cheesemakers freely allow blue mold to enter the cheese as it's aging. It's a very passive process- they don't encourage or discourage the growth, and it happens quite frequently. This cheese is grassy but not aggressively so; it has a deep, beefy, nutty flavor, and the paste is quite creamy.
Cheddar has been made at Manor Farm in North Cadbury, Somerset for three generations, since the Montgomery family moved down from Scotland in the early twentieth century. When Jamie Montgomery took over from his mother in the mid-nineties, the market for clothbound Cheddars was dominated by cheese with a bright, acid, sharp flavour set in a soft creamy paste, which was well suited to supermarket cutting lines. Determined to make something different from these rather uniform cheeses, he set out to make a cheese with a drier texture and more complexity. Jamie Montgomery now works alongside cheesemaker Steve Bridges. They use the milk of their herd of 140 Friesian cows, and the family uses the same strain cultures today that they did when they started 70 years ago. Other fun history fact: the calves graze on an Iron Age fort on the farm-grounds which dates back to King Arthur defending Wessex from the Saxons.
How to enjoy it
Montgomery's is proof positive that cheddar and beer make good bedfellows. It pairs well with an Abbey style ale such as Brother Thelonius. The name Abbey style ales comes from beer having been produced in Monasteries by monks.
The best known style of Abbey is Trappist ales of which there are only 5 true breweries remaining in the world. They typically contain candy sugar (beet or cane sugar that has been caramelized). This adds a rich caramelized flavor to the beer and provides more sugar to produce high strength beers like dubbel or tripel styles.
Sources: murrayscheese.com, pastoralartisan.com, nealsyarddairy.co.uk, cheese.com