With its mottled rind boasting rustic splotches of orange and white and its flying saucer-esque shape, this British sheep's milk cheese is truly one of a kind. Dig into its paste for a complex, evolving burst of flavor yielding notes of pineapple and caramel.
It's made at a lovely 16th century house and farm called Ram Hall, located in the West Midlands region of England. The Fletcher family has lived on the farm for six generations. They began milking sheep in 1989 and selling the milk, and at the suggestion of a local farm shop they soon began to experiment with cheesemaking. Cheese had apparently been produced at Ram Hall in the past, as the Fletchers discovered when they stripped off some old paint and found the words "Cheese Room" underneath. However the recipe had been lost and so they began to make Berkswell using a Caerphilly formula, which evolved from there.
Berkswell is made in small vats under the guidance of cheesemaker Julie Hay. Milk is heated, starter cultures and rennet are added, and the milk is left to ripen. The curd is then cut and re-heated before being put into the colanders that give the cheeses their distinct flying saucer shape. Wheels are matured for at least six months before release.
Berkswell has a natural rind that is slightly chewy and rusty brown-red in color. It also bears the distinctive imprint of the colanders in which it is formed. The texture is firm and dense and slightly granular with an interior paste the color of pale butter. Flavors are concentrated, sweet and very complex, with tremendous length and finish. There are often notes of pineapple and caramel overlaid with a balanced tang.
Pair it with an English cider or a pinot noir.