Barber’s 1833 Reserve Vintage Cheddar and cider brandy!
English mature cheddar cheese. Until I came to England, I had no idea what mature cheddar cheese was. Sure I’d had SHARP cheddar cheese (and didn’t really care for it, too sharp!). I have to admit, my favourite cheese used to be Monterey Jack – no snickering, please.
In my defense, our tastebuds do advance with us as much as any other part of our bodies and I’ve long since moved on but English mature cheddar I could never really get my tongue around. A wee tiny bit was all I could stand. That is,until…duh,duh,duhhh…Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve English cheddar.
I was on a weekend trip to the Somerset and it’s environs last week and our first stop was Barber’s Farmhouse where they have been making cheese since the early 1800′s. They still use the traditional cheese cultures from them and quite frankly, don’t know what exactly constitutes their yeast mix. They can guarantee though, that they are indigenous yeasts.They use about 16 different cultures to make their cheeses but as they are undefined mixtures, they can never replicate the cheese exactly. They believe that their cheeses should reflect the diversity of the organism. Let nature take it’s course, so to speak.
The lovely fellows of Barber showed us first how to “iron” cheese. Basically it’s a tube that’s been cut in half lengthwise with a handle on one end. You plunge the sharp end into the cheese and pull out a cylinder of cheese. Much like winemakers use winethieves to sample the wine in barrel, the iron is the same with the cheese.
We first “ironed” their 3 month old aged cheddar. It was mild and buttery, very subtle flavours, kind of reminded me of American mild cheddar. The next one we tried was a year old. Now were talking. More cheesy flavours coming through but still quite mild and creamy.
The next cheese was aged 1 year and much more intense cheesy flavours. A rich buttery-ness washing over with a slight nutty undertone.
We were all however, anxious to start “ironing” the 2 year olds! We tried a few blocks of their flagship cheese the Barbers 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar. Each month, a select few are deemed worthy of 24 months aging. The result is a very smooth and drivingly rich flavour. Despite the fact the they were all the same age, there was a distinct difference in tastes. The first was slightly caramely with vanilla and huge toffee notes. It also had a slightly crunchy character to it which sometimes develops during the aging process. I quite liked the soupcon of crunch!
During the tasting they passed around the local cider, Burrow Hill which was refreshingly dry and a bottle of Somerset Pomona, a cider brandy. What delightful companions! The Pomona especially completely highlighted the caramel and toffee tones of the cheese. It was like eating a sweet alcoholic dessert. And so smooth. It was easy to down it, too easy….
Just for comparison we tried another 2year old cheese and this one was completely different, meaty and savoury popped to mind along with loud cheddar waves hitting your palate and toasted nuts even! This cheese tasting was beginning to turn into a wine tasting for me! The sensations were so similar. I’ve never really taken the time to analyze cheese but I think I will from now on.
Afterwards we went to the local pub for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the local cider before heading off to our hotel and then Riverford for dinner! Post on that coming up soon…..