The history of Ashmore Cheese.
That determination is shared by Pat. In a corner of the store she
has been experimenting with some semi-hard cheese that she tried
to perfect when she was on her farm. She had made in in her cellar
and called it Tillingbourne. Once, when James Aldridge has dropped
by, she brought him one that she had been ripening, illegally had
she intended selling it, in a damp cellar. The Beckenham cheesemonger
had tasted it and beamed 'I am really proud of you Pat. You'll probably
never do it again.'
His backhanded praise hasn't prevented her trying, although at
Cranborne she fears that her store, regulated for ripening the hard
cheese, isn't moist enough for her semi-hard.
Both she and David regret that they no longer own their herd. They
have, though, opted for the next best thing by working with a farmer
who is ready to share detailed information on what he has been feeding
his cows. He'll take their advise not to add certain foodstuffs
to the cows' diet, for instance kale, which might cause a taint.
They have never deviated from raw milk as the basis for Ashmore.
Should they or the public that buys their cheese be frightened
of E. coli, listeria or tuberculosis? Listeria has never caused
any problems with hard cheese. E. coli, which can cause serious
food poisoning, has been spread by contaminated cheese. What is
not realised in the general hysteria that is whipped up by the media
if a case occurs, is that people are far more likely to suffer an
E. coli attack by drinking water from a vending machine, or outside
of the UK, by drinking tap water.
As to tuberculosis, the fear of unwittingly making cheese from
infected milk has persuaded many specialist cheesemakers to pasteurise.
Pat argues that her milk comes from a single herd that is tested
monthly. In any event, the disease develops slowly. It isn't present
in the milk until the disease is well advanced, by which time it
would have been diagnosed in the herd and the cows put down.
When they go to markets the Dobles feel they are encouraging their
customers to distance themselves from the mass-produced product
in order to develop a sense of respect for crafted food. Once people
set their expectations higher, and taste a little more carefully,
they will be repaid by the extra pleasure that the unpasteurised
cheese offers them. That is where an accelerating change in the
way those who can afford to are eating is borne out by Pat and David's
experience at Winchester Farmers' market. In its early days they
were the only cheesemaker. Now there are seven.
Step over the threshold of Lord Salisbury's Cranborne Stores and
the same commitment to food that has been produced carefully and
on a small scale is equally apparent. This isn't a smart deli. Despite
its ownership, it's the village shop. Yes, it stocks Brillo pads,
Mars Bars, Heinz Ketchup and the Daily Mail, but the meat counter
is packed with the pork that has almost disappeared from English
tables during the lean-good-fat-bat decades of intensively farmed
cheap meat, and it also has a counter with Ashmore, Woolsery, Keen's,
Daisy and a dozen more cheeses.
Extract from West
Country Cheese Makers by Michael Raffael are reproduced
by permission of Birlinn Ltd. www.birlinn.co.uk
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