World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Westcombe Cheddar from the UK
Country: United Kingdom 🇬🇧
Made from: Cow’s milk
Texture: Firm, structured, crumbly
Taste: Citrus, hazlenut, caramel
Certification: PDO (EU)
Aging: 11 to 18 months
Westcombe Cheddar is one of very few cheddars to be made by hand in the Westcountry and is qualified as a Westcountry Farmhouse Cheddar which is Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). A truly artisan cheddar from Somerset with a deep and complex flavor, Westcombe now remains as one of the last three traditional producers of Somerset Cheddar.
The cheese has a a mellow lactic tang and long notes of citrus, hazelnut and caramel. The texture is structured and firm, with a smooth breakdown that keeps the flavours lingering on your palate. This cheese is often called a 'five mile Cheddar', as you’re still tasting it five miles down the road.
Made by Tom Calver of Westcombe Dairy in the Batcombe Vale of Somerset using the milk from the Friesian cows farmed by his father. This farmhouse cheese making business has been making its renowned cheddar since 1890 (with a short break) and now makes over 100 tonnes of Cheddar a year, all of which is made to the highest quality using traditional methods.
The PDO criteria is much stricter than that for West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, and includes using raw milk from their own herd, pint starters rather than the more widely used powdered versions, and animal rennet. The cheese must never be made in a block form, and must be cloth-bound before being matured for at least one year.
Winner of BEST PDO Cheese and Best Cheddar at the 2017 British Cheese Awards and Winner of Best Cheddar at the British Cheese Awards 2018.
Located in Somerset, England, Westcombe Farm began making traditional cheddar in the 1880s. In the mid-20th century, when the market began favoring block cheddars, owner Richard Calver decided to stop making cheese and the farm began selling its fluid milk. In 2001, however, Westcombe decided to start making cheese again, and contacted Neal's Yard Dairy for advice. Richard's son, Tom, spent some time working at Neal's Yard before returning to the farm to make cheese. Today, Richard manages the farm and Tom makes cheese using a recipe that dates to the 1890s.
The Calver family farm two farms with 400 cows and make unpasteurised Cheddar daily, using methods passed down over many generations. Under the guidance of Tom Calver the cheese has gone from strength to strength as he has adjusted the recipe and refined the maturing. At the same time his father, Richard, has worked on improving the quality of the cows feed to get a better fat and protein content.
Tom Calver of Westcombe believes the success of his Cheddar lies in their ability to exploit the local Westcombe terroir and letting it enhance their cheese making. From the richness of the milk to the special conditions of their cheese ageing room, everything they do revolves around letting the milk express itself in the finished cheese.
How to enjoy it
A lovely cheddar, it partners well with both full-bodied dry red wines, cider and beers.
Sources: cowgirlcreamery.com, lafromagerie.co.uk, finecheese.co.uk, paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk, westocmbedairy.com, waitrosecellar.com