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Caerphilly Cheeseby Gary Reading, Mar 2019
Caerphilly is a hard, white cheese originating from a town of the same name in South Wales. It was first made in Caerphilly in about 1830. Its texture and flavour bears resemblance to cheddar, which is the most popular type of cheese in the United Kingdom. This cheese is known as “the crumblies”.
The recipe for Caerphilly has been inspired from other crumbly cheeses like Cheshire, young Lancashire and Wensleydale. It is said that the cheese was specially made for coal-miners as its tough texture and shallow height made it easy for them to eat with bare hands while the salty, moist curd helped to replenish the lost minerals.
Caerphilly is made from unpasteurised cows’ milk and matured anywhere from 8 to 10 to 14 days. Some variants are often kept for up to a year to develop a harder texture and stronger taste. Inside the pale ivory rind of the cheese, young Caerphilly has a fresh and pleasant taste alongside a moist yet supple texture. With maturity, the edges become creamy and the flavour becomes more rounded. It usually has a wheel-shape with ivory-white rind dusted with fine flour. As the cheese ages in a moist cellar, the white and gray moulds become thicker and more leathery. The cheese can be vegetarian depending upon the brand.
A basic white burgundy would go well with this cheese. It is normally grated or melted onto dishes.
Despite being a common English-made cheese, Caerphilly’s origins, as the name suggests, are most definitely Welsh. The cheese originated as a simple way to make milk last for longer, and was especially popular as a snack for miners to eat at work, as it did not dry out below ground. Yes – traditional Caerphilly is often quite a moist cheese.
The decline in traditional Caerphilly production can be traced to World War II, when Cheddar became the British cheese of choice because it kept for longer. In the post-war years, however, English cheesemakers adopted Caerphilly as a lucrative sideline: by selling it young they were able to literally churn it out quickly.
Meanwhile, competing demands for milk forced a decline in traditional Caerphilly making in Wales, and gradually the memory of more interesting, traditional Caerphillys faded from people’s memories.
Now, thankfully, cheesemakers in Wales – and in the West Country (see Trethowan Dairy’s wonderful Gorwydd Caerphilly) have brought traditional cheese back to life in all its earthy, lemony glory – from young, fresh, Bodnant Caerphilly with its dense crumbly texture and lactic tang to Teifi Mature Caerphilly, whose depth and intensity reflects the complexity of the raw milk used in its production.