As April's Cheese of the Month, Ruth Holbrook, trade sales manager of Paxton & Whitfield's flagship Jermyn Street shop, has selected the British cheese Sparkenhoe Red Leicester (unpasteurised, cows' milk, traditional rennet.)
This cheese is the only Red Leicester made today in Britain with raw milk on a farm in Leicestershire. It is produced by the Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Company, located on Sparkenhoe Dairy farm, in Upton, a small hamlet in South West Leicestershire. David and Jo Clarke are the dairy farmers and their family has farmed in the area for many generations. They started to make Sparkenhoe Red Leicester in 2005 using milk from their own cows. the milk comes from a pedigree herd of 150 Holstein Friesian and 160 other cows of varied breeds. The cows are fed on the farm's rich pastures with calving taking place throughout the year to maintain the consistency of the milk. To make the cheese the milk from the previous day's milking is pumped into the cheese room at 4am. An old recipe discovered by Jo and David is then followed and traditional animal rennet added. Annatto, a natural plant dye obtained from a South American bush is added to give the cheese its rich orange colour. The curds and whey are then scalded gently, separated and the curds are cut into blocks and turned to release further whey. They are then put through a mill, where salt is added. The cheese is then placed into moulds and pressed for 24 hours, turn and pressed for another 24 hours. The cheeses are then bound in cloth and lard and matured for six months in cheese maturing rooms at a temperature of ten degrees celsius.
The cheese is nutty and complex, with deep caramel and liquorice undertones that completely set this cheese apart from generic Red Leicester found in supermarkets.
Ruth says: "Red Leicester is a great cheese as it has so many subtle flavours. It's so nutty and satisfying, it makes a cracking sandwich and is also great on a cheeseboard. I would pair it with a bottle of our No 93 Ale and our No 93 Ale Chutney in a doorstep sandwich. Possibly with some York Ham thrown in for good measure and a Paxton's Pork Pie on the side."