First made by a family on Bodmin Moor thirty years ago, Cornish Yarg is today produced at Lynher Dairies, one of the most successful makers of artisan cheese in Britain who produce over 200 tonnes of cheese each year. An occasional Fifteen ingredient and visitor to the Fifteen cheeseboard, Cornish Yarg is made from pasteurised Cow’s milk and wrapped in nettles which are carefully handpicked and then painted onto the outside, where they infuse it with a subtle, mushroom-y hue. At this time of year the yargs are also wrapped in wild garlic or ‘Ramson’ leaves which give them a delicate garlic flavour and slightly firmer texture. Fifteen Stories spoke to Catherine Mead, owner and director of Lynher Daires to learn more about the cheese. Read on to hear what she has to stay, alongside a preview of a new cheese launching this autumn.
Can you tell me a little about the dairy herd?
We take our milk from herds that have ‘Farm Assurance’, a promise of excellence from our local co-operative Arla . We’re lucky in Cornwall to enjoy early pasture and extended grazing so the milk is grass-rich.
What’s the story behind the use of garlic and nettle leaves, was it simply to enhance the flavour, or are there other benefits to wrapping the cheese in this way?
Every cheese needs a rind, so that’s one reason for wrapping our Yargs in nettle or wild garlic leaves but we do it for flavour and texture too. Nettle leaves attract naturally occurring moulds, raising the pH of the cheese which in turn breaks down the curd and encourages maturation. The curds start off crumbly and become smoother as the nettles do their work. Nettle leaves are permeable, so they create a convection, transferring air in and air out. Garlic leaves are less permeable so there is less moisture loss, hence its firmer texture. Garlic leaves are also anti-microbial so they attract less mould growth. The different leaves totally govern the way in which the cheese matures, and ultimately how it tastes.
Has your production process evolved over the past 30 years, if so in what ways?
We have learned a lot over the years about the way we treat the leaves. Humidity and temperature is key, and both leaves need different environments. Garlic leaves like a colder, dryer treatment. We mature the wrapped cheeses under coloured lights to avoid photosynthesis, stopping the leaves turning yellow. Nettles like to be kept wetter and warmer. We have also studied the science around driving out moisture at an early stage, when the milk is still in the vat. Too much moisture leads to a denser cheese with a closer texture, something more Cheddary. A more open cheese implies a slightly more acid, lemony and yoghurty flavour, more typical of Yarg. All this is adapted to the seasonality of the milk, because winter milk is different in composition to summer milk.
What, in your opinion makes Cornish Yarg different/special?
Yarg is the only cheese that uses leaves in such an integral way, creating a rind that enables maturation and lends flavour. No-one else is doing that. It is exciting to create two such individual cheeses from the same recipe simply by understanding how the different leaves affect the end result.
We’ve heard on the grapevine that there’s another cheese in the making at Lynher Daires, Cornish Kern. Can you tell us a little about what we have to look forward to when it launches?
It’s made in the same open vats as Yarg and, like Yarg, is pressed and brined. And there the similarity ends. Kern is coated in a protective wax-like rind and is matured for between 14 and 18 months. The resulting cheese is quite flaky and almost dry with a profound and nutty flavour. To get early feedback, the first examples of Kern were entered into national cheese awards and the accolades that came back were a huge vote of confidence for its future. With only limited quantities of ‘ready to eat now’ Kern available at the moment, it’s all hands on deck at Lynher to produce more in readiness for its launch in November 2016.