Regional Cheeses **************** Long before the days where promoting regional food and encouraging the growing, buying, cooking and eating of organic meat and vegetables were foremost, these were our aims and business policy in our successful West Dorset restaurant. Fish and shellfish from the local trawler man, seasonal fruits and vegetables from the neighbouring allotment growers and orchards, meat from bordering farms, eggs from the poultry farm and rich milk and cream from local milking herds. Local cheeses included a prize winning cheddar, a soft goats cheese and a hard ewe’s cheese all produced by dedicated independent cheese makers on their farms and bought by us from within a radius of five miles. But the biggest prize of all, was the mysterious, much rumoured Dorset Blue, formerly known as Dorset Blue Vinney! All the cheese makers would deliver their carefully made cheeses to us personally, but our source of Blue Vinney was shrouded in mystery, we had a middle man who made a special trip, to a special farm near Dorchester who claimed they were the only Wessex farm who made the ‘real’ thing, and not this pasteurised, tasteless mockery of a cheese that, because of the strict new laws in cheese making, masqueraded as traditional Blue Vinney. Blue Vinney Folklore ******************** Rather in the same way that some inns and hotels like to give their guests the impression they are haunted, to add a little local colour to a weekend break, with the prospect the visitor may see a ‘real live’ ghost, then the Blue Vinney mystery of how it was made, fuelled many an after dinner conversation in local restaurants. With imaginations flared by cognac and liqueurs, the claims reached horrendous and terrifying heights of conjecture, and none of these suggestions as to the secret of farmers in their barns making Blue Vinney are publishable and quite frankly, barely legal! The publishable and rathe r charming legend is said, that because Blue Vinney is a low fat cheese using skimmed milk, this could sometimes restrict the mould needed to turn the cheese blue. That is why rumours of earlier cheese makers dipping old horse harnesses into the vats, or storing the cheese on damp flagstones covered with Hessian bags or next to mouldy boots to encourage the growth of the moulds, were legion. At one time the farms where it was made would not divulge their names as the cheese men were afraid they might be closed down if their whereabouts was known. Another printable Dorset rural myth says that as the rind of a traditional Blue Vinney gets very hard with age, a train once ran on Blue Vinneys instead of wheels! The Real Blue Vinney ******************** The word 'Vinney' comes from ‘vinew’ an old English word which meant mould, and yet another source tells me that “The word Vinney comes from the Old English ‘fyne’ meaning mould" and another informs me that “Vinney is an old English word for ‘veining’” I won’t argue with any of them! When there were hundreds of small farms in Dorset, every farmer’s wife would make her own Blue Vinney. After the milk from the small herds was skimmed and the cream used for butter, the remaining skimmed milk was turned into a very low fat hard cheese. This is where the legends grew, as the chances of a low fat cheese ‘blueing’ is a very random affair as they didn’t use mould spores as all blue cheese makers do now, the cheeses would go hard as they ripened and matured and be uneatable. Perhaps there is something in the stories of mouldy old farmyard boots and train wheels! A good blue Vinney, although unpressed, is quite a hard, crumbly cheese, creamy white in colour, with lighter, finer blue veins than a Stilton. It’s drier and tighter with a rounded sharpness and a positive taste of blue. Blue Vinney i s a specialist cheese with the specialist market being very different from the mass market. In order to produce flavour and character, specialist cheeses tend to be handmade on the farm on a small scale using traditional methods, and as with Blue Vinney, from unpasteurised milk. Traditional artisan cheese makers who usually produce their cheese from the one single herd have fought long and hard to reverse the government ruling in 1989, that all cheese had to be made from pasteurised milk, resulting in an entirely different tasting product. In fact Stilton makers Long Clawson make a pasteurised version of Blue Vinney, but there is nothing like the real thing! Can I Cook with It? ****************** The crumbly texture of Blue Vinney makes it an ideal cheese to cook with. In fact, anything you can do with Stilton, can be done equally as well with this cheese. A Blue Vinney Sauce is a fine creamy and savoury accompaniment for beef, chicken or pork: Blue Vinney Sauce: ***************** Melt some butter in a pan over a medium heat. Cook chopped shallots until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir. Blend in some plain flour . Gradually stir, adding dry white wine and liquid stock and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and boils gently. Remove from heat and stir in 2/3oz of crumbled Blue Vinney and ground black pepper until blended. Serve hot over the sliced meat or poultry of your choice. Blue Vinney Dip *************** Perfect with Crudités, crackers, bread sticks and if you have bought a whole cheese, then the hard crust of the hollowed out cheese shell can be used to present the dip: Mash a wedge of Blue Vinney with a fork and blend in some natural yoghurt, followed by whipping cream and chopped parsley. Season lightly and chill for several hours. Serve and dip! The Traditional Way to Eat Blue Vinney! ************************************** But many would tell you there is just one way to eat Blue Vinney! With Dorset Knobs! Before I explain them to you, I briefly need to tell you of my very first impression of a Dorset Knob. Our first social invitation when I first moved to Dorset, was to a Dinner Dance in a local hotel. I was very young and nervous at meeting all these new ‘local’ people. I sat at my allotted seat at the dining table, flanked by two strange men, picked up the small bread roll on my side plate, thought how rock hard it was so it must be stale! Curiosity got to me and I stabbed it with my knife, it shattered and exploded into a million pieces and flew all over the exquisitely laid table, covering all the surrounding guests with dusty looking fine crumbs! Perhaps I should explain why. Dorset Knobs are light, crisp roll-shaped biscuits produced by Moores of Morecombelake Dorset. They are shaped by hand, baked at a high temperature then left in a low oven until they are completely dried out, giving them a very good shelf life. About the size of a golf ball, they have a Rusk-like texture and can be spread with butter, or eaten with cheese or soup. Some people even dip them in their tea. Now you can see why it exploded! Support Your Regional Cheese **************************** I smile to myself when I hear people say they went to France for a holiday, found this wonderful local cheese produced by a farmer from his own dairy cows, bring some back to the UK extolling its virtues, yet we as a farming nation have many regional, specialist cheeses made in the traditional way, by diversifying farmers. Visit a local cheese shop, go to a farmer’s market, go online and search for cheeses in your region. You could be very surprised and impressed with the result. The last claim to fame I have to give Blue Vinney, my own regional cheese: The Monty Python aficionados amongst my readers may well recall the ‘Cheese Shop’ sketch, and there, amongst the references to world famous c heeses, from “Brie, Roquefort, Pol le Veq, Port Salut, Savoy Aire, Saint Paulin, Carrier de lest, Bres Bleu, Bruson “ is the memorable mention of “Dorset Bluveny” Could this tribute result in yet another ‘Legend’ for the unique gourmet Dorset cheese called Blue Vinney? Where Can You Buy Blue Vinney? ***************************** Direct from the farm: ·Woodbridge Farm Stock Gaylard Sturminster Newton DT10 2BD Phone: 01963 23216 Opening Times: telephone ahead ·Denhay Farm Broadoak Bridport DT6 5NP Phone: 01308 422770 Fax: 01308 424846 Online cheese shops: ·http://www.provender.net/provender/deli/pages/product.html Or visit a speciality cheese shop in a Town near you!