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Village Maid Cheese
United Kingdom
7 ins diameter, 3-4 ins high
5 lbs

Somewhat unconventionally, Anne and Andy Wigmore's creamery is located in a converted garage at the end of their garden in the village of Risely in Berkshire, England. There, they make three excellent cheeses: Spenwood, Wigmore and Waterloo

As a graduate from the school of Dairy Science at Reading University, Anne, together with her husband Andy, began making cheese during the 1980's. They were spurred on in this effort by Patrick Rance, who owned a cheese shop nearby and whose passionate desire to prevent small-scale British cheesemakers from disappearing altogether resulted in a renaissance of British cheese production.

The Wigmores' Village Maid Cheese Company has, over the years, played an important role in the re-introduction of sheep's milk cheese to Britain. Sheep's milk cheeses had almost disappeared by the 18th century and it is only in rlatively recent times - since the 1980's that they have startd to make a comeback. However, in the early days of their business when they required only small quantities of milk, ironically it was far easier to buy in small amounts of sheep's milk than cow's milk. That, in addition to becoming inspired by the sheep's milk cheeses of Sardinia after a holiday there, proved to be the main deciding factors for their sheep cheese production.

Milk for the production of Spenwood comes from three herds (one organic) of nearby Dorset Friesland sheep. Cheeses are made from unpasteurized milk, and matured on site at the Wigmore's facility.

Named after the Berkshire village of Spencers Wood, Spenwood is a hard, pressed sheep's milk cheese, similar in style of production to some Italian Pecorinos.

Delicious at six months, Spenwood holds up well to 12 months which is when Anne prefers it, when the cheese is drier and the flavors are more concentrated.

Spenwood has a thin, grey and evenly distributed rind. The texture is smooth and dense, with an ivory-colored paste.

Flavors hint at caramel. Sweet, rich, nutty and deep, it is ideal for cooking - especially grated over pasta.