The smell of baked Vacherin Mont D’Or or a well-prepared camembert with warm crusty bread ‘fondue’ has to one of my favourites at home or in the restaurant.
Cheeses are one of life’s interesting treats and like any treat I always tend to want more or too much. A glutton for real produce and eating far too much of it I might say.
This month my Suffolk compass (I-phone maps) pointed towards a small market town once home to the rogue Baron Hugh Bigod. Nestled on the River Waveney surrounded by pasture rich meadows I found myself in Bungay on the trail for raw milk and the much celebrated ‘farm house brie’ Baron Bigod. Real farmhouse cheese making is a rarity today and Fen Farm Dairy are only a few worldwide to farm the cows and make the cheese with the same farmer. That I tip my hat to.
Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore have created a beauty in my opinion that knocks the socks off any brie-style cheese I have tried and sold in the restaurant. The herd of Montbeliarde cows on the farm are an ancient breed originating from the Alpines in France and like most cows haven’t been over bred. The farming style for the production is low intensity and there is minimum stress on the beast to produce a sustainable level of milk. This enables the cow to carry an A2 gene which is un-recognisable in most farmed cow today. This gene makes for a healthier milk to digest and a more pure milk. I suppose you need to find a health kick somewhere nowadays.
The earthy, golden curded cheese is made in small batches and always early in the morning when the milk is still warm. It sounds fairy tale stuff but clever methods and letting the herd live a happy life have made for a wonderful raw milk and cheese. Just like when I visited the Angus cows at Bridge Farm earlier this year, the quality always seems to come right from the beginning and ensuring the animal has the best surroundings and diet possible. Interesting for a chef when striving for the right quality of muscle and taste in an animal. Good fat and happy livestock seem to be the way forward in Suffolk farmers’ philosophies.
In the centre of Bungay stands the Buttercross, a large vaulted and domed monument, beneath the shade of which the dairy farmers of Bungay once gathered to sell their prized butter. During those heady, buttery days, Suffolk was regarded as the “butter capital” of England. East Anglian butter was sought after by every foodie worth their weight in grouse and was exported as far as the West Indies. Nowadays Suffolk is celebrated as the UK’s ‘food larder’ – the county is bursting with wonderful producers across the whole plate. It never fails to deliver a pearl this county. Take a trip out to Bungay and support the ‘raw milk revolution’ and grab yourself one of Suffolk’s real treats.
Hopefully I can find some pearls next month when I’m on the trawl for some Deben shellfish.
In the mean time I will settle for some Baked Bigod and a cold glass of crisp Chablis….
‘Cheese to that’.
-- Lee Bye is head chef at Tuddenham Mill. Follow Lee on Twitter: @leebyechef