Cheese of the month: Tunworth
Some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But what if the imitation becomes an icon in its own right? I can’t think of a better example of this than March’s cheese of the month – Tunworth.
This Hampshire-made soft cheese is produced in the style of the French giant Camembert and stands up to it in both taste, texture and appearance. In fact legendary French chef Raymond Blanc called it “the best Camembert in the world”. High praise indeed.
Now I’m not looking to pit two cheeses against each other in this blog post. In fact I would urge you to seek out a delicious Camembert de Normandie. Enjoy it with a french baguette and a glass or two of chilled Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc. Trust me, you won’t have a better time. What is really impressive about Tunworth is that the producers did a lot of research in the search for the perfect cheese. They asked fellow cheesemakers what was missing from the British cheeseboard. The answer was a full-flavoured soft white mould cheese and the idea for Tunworth was born.
The cheese is made by Stacey Hedges and Charlotte Spruce from the Hampshire Cheese Company. Stacey began making cheese at home, turning out about 30 cheeses a week. She moved out of her kitchen and established the business in 2005, working in a small Hampshire creamery. The business grew and Charlotte joined the company at the end of 2006 and is now head cheesemaker and oversees production.
The milk is sourced from a local dairy dedicated to regenerative farming methods and wildlife conservation. The herd is made up of Montbeliarde, Swedish Red and Holstein-Freisian cows and the milk is collected on a daily basis just after milking. Tunworth is handmade using traditional methods and is ripened with the Penicillium Candidum mould. The cheese has a very wrinkly rind which is favoured by some cheese suppliers. The Courtyard Dairy in North Yorkshire select the Tunworth’s with the rinds that are particularly wrinkled. The cheese has also twice been awarded Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards.
The duo also produce another cheese called Winslade. Reminiscent of the equally delicious Vacherin, it is enclosed in a spruce band and has a milder flavour than Tunworth.
|Matured for 7-8 weeks
|Strength and style of cheese
|Soft, white mould rind
|Cream, lemon, butter, cabbage, mushroom, black pepper
I could immediately see why Raymond Blanc has heaped so much praise on this cheese. The flavour profile is intense – creamy but with a nice acidity. It had a wonderful mouthfeel and tasted like melted butter and soft cabbage.
I’ve done a few drinks pairings with Tunworth, once when it was just ripe and once when it had been left to mature for over a week. Both times it was truly delicious but my guests and I actually preferred the more aged version. As the cheese ripens, the umami taste intensifies and tickles your tastebuds.
The best beer I’ve found to pair with this style of cheese is a citrusy IPA. The juicy, hoppy notes of Crossborders IPA can’t be beat. This award-winning beer uses Simcoe, Mosaic and Amarillo hops. It won silver at the Scottish Beer Awards in 2020 and the best IPA at the 2020 SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) awards.
The cheese easily stands up to the beer, which has quite a pronounced grapefruit flavour on the nose and a bitter finish on the palate. Paired together I was getting notes of black pepper and a delightful sweetness. A perfect match.
If you were looking for an alternative to beer you could opt for a Breton-style cider or even a calvados.
One of the simplest ways to enjoy Camembert-style cheeses like Tunworth is to bake them whole in the oven. Preheat your oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas mark 6. Take your cheese out of the wooden box and remove any wax paper or plastic wrapping. Make little incisions in the top of the cheese with a sharp knife and fill them with thin slivers of garlic and rosemary or thyme. Drizzle some white wine or honey over the top. Place the cheese back in the wooden box and bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and enjoy with some good quality crusty bread to dunk into that oozy cheesy goodness.
Tunworth is available from all good cheese shops and in some supermarkets. I would urge you to seek this out if you can. It stands up to some of the best French equivalents out there and is a brilliant example of this style of cheese.