This washed-rind British beaut made from raw sheep's milk is named after James Aldridge, an iconic cheesemaker and champion of British cheese.
It's made at the Holker Farm Dairy in Cumbria in northern England by Martin Gott, who learned cheesemaking from British cheese legends Graham Kirkham (Kirkham’s Lancashire) and Mary Holbrook before setting up his own business. Gott and his partner Nicola Robinson have an established a flock of Lacaune ewes, a breed that originated in the Auvergne region of France.
To make this square-shaped cheese, Gott and Robinson use sheep's milk from an early-morning milking, which is pumped directly through from the milking parlor into the cheesemaking vat while it's still warm. They increase temperature slightly and add a starter culture that's been cultivated on-site. The milk sits for about half an hour to ripen before the rennet is added. Within about ninety minutes, the milk has coagulated, and it’s cut into half-inch squares, left for twenty minutes to allow some of the whey to drain off, and then scooped into molds lined with cloth.
The newly formed cheeses are left overnight to drain and towards the end of the day, weights are placed on top to complete the draining process. After removing the cloth, the cheeses are turned out onto racks for a dat hours in the warm, humid salting room before dry salt is applied to their rinds on day three or four. On day five, the wheels are transferred to maturing rooms where they are washed regularly to encourage the development of the Brevibacterium linens culture that gives the cheese its distinct rind and flavor.
St James is semi-soft with a pale, cream-colored interior paste, a slightly tacky texture, and a gentle brown-orange rind. It's complex—deeply flavorful and buttery, with notes of custard and a sweet, almondy finish. It's milky but with a savory kick.
Pair St James with a malty ale, or graham crackers—anything with malt and a little fizz.