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Cheese of the month: Sparkenhoe Farm Vintage Red Leicester

Steve and Caroline Ward bring you choice fromages…

The 1970s: the decade of bad taste. Terrible clothes, bad haircuts, dodgy racist TV sit-coms and the demise of real British cheese.

No cheese suffered the curse of the seventies like Red Leicester, reduced to a pale rubbery imitation of its former self by the wonders of mass production. To this day, people still think they don’t like red Leicester. The hangover has lasted forty years.

But, fear not my intrepid cheeselets, the hangover cure is here! At Sparkenhoe Farm, just up the road near Nuneaton, David and Jo Clarke have continued a long family tradition of dairy farming.

They have a herd of 150 pure Holstein cows and their grass fed, unpasteurised milk retains all the goodness and flavour that can sometimes go missing during pasteurisation.

The vintage red Leicester is their showpiece cheese. This large 10 kilo cloth-bound wheel is all handmade and lovingly aged for around 18 months.

This results in a deep, firm red centre , darker at the edge, with occasional lines of blue, cloaked in a gnarly old rind. Cheese mites are encouraged to inhabit the rind to improve the ageing process .

The taste is, as always, what its all about; and Sparkenhoe delivers. It has all the salty kick of a vintage cheddar along with deep, nutty caramel flavours, perfect with good crusty bread, crispy apple and perhaps a slice of pork pie.

At Cheese Towers I’ve lined up some re-runs of the Dick Emery show. I’ll get settled with a bottle of nice chestnut brown ale and a wedge of Sparkenhoe while Mrs Cheese has just cracked a bottle of Blue Nun to give the sink a quick clean !

www.stgilescheese.com

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