Tunworth vs. Camembert
Camembert: gooey, bold, delicious
Camembert is a soft, creamy, ‘surface-ripened’ cow’s milk cheese, most commonly baked until gooey and ready to dip. The rise of Camembert occurred in the 18th century in its namesake in Northern France: Camembert, Normandy. Production of camembert can be traced back to farmer Marie Harel in 1791; legend has it she heard of the recipe from a priest in Brie (no wonder it has many similarities with its cousin cheese!).
Camembert cheese became popular with the advancement of industrial processing; leading to its famous wooden transport box. During World War I the French government started producing camembert as part of official war rations. This allowed camembert to not only be part of French cuisine and culture, but also be a dish enjoyed globally.
The variety named Camembert de Normandie was granted protected designated origin in 1992 after its original AOC (a french certification of wines, cheeses, etc.) in 1983. The AOC Camembert can only be made from raw, unpasteurized milk from Normandes cows. This certification has meant that soft cheese makers outside of France have adopted different names for a similar variation of this delicious, farmhouse cheese.
Tunworth: a very British, Camembert
Tunworth, the soft, white-rinded cheese made upon the lush hills of rural Hampshire. Tunworth is made entirely by hand; from the ladle of the pasteurised whole cow’s milk, to its wrapping, boxing and packaging. The Hampshire Cheese Co. was founded in 2005 by Stacey Hedges, who made the first prototype in her kitchen (talk about hand-crafted!), and Charlotte Spruce. Tunworth has a rich, earthy mushroom aroma, with a soft, wrinkled rind and ‘long-lasting sweet and nutty flavour’. Nestled in its wooden box, Tunworth is the perfect centrepiece for a cheeseboard, or baked with some garlic and rosemary sprinkled on top.
We had the pleasure to have a little Q&A with Stacey herself and ask her all about her origins as well as the birth of Tunworth.
What was your foray into cheese making?
I had worked as a cheesemonger in Sydney years ago when I was a student and always found cheese and its production interesting. Eventually I did a course with Val Bines ( she has also helped other cheesemakers develop their cheeses – Barkham Blue from Berkshire and Pitchfork from Trethowans as well as Quickes cheddar) She is the font of all knowledge when it comes to milk and cheese!! She came and made cheese with me in my kitchen at home. I just knew then that that’s what I wanted to do.
What inspired you to create a ‘british camembert’?
Firstly, there were some practical reasons – lack of space to mature large cheeses for a long time, starting with a minimal investment meant buying smaller equipment that could be added to over time etc etc.
Secondly, I knew I couldn’t compete with the already established cheddar makers/ stilton makers and territorial cheeses as Hampshire hasn’t got a tradition of cheesemaking like some areas of the UK.and most of the traditional cheeses are made on family farms with several generations of experience.
Thirdly and I suppose the most important reason was that I love soft, gooey and smelly ripe cheese and I felt no one in the Uk was making that at the time when I started in 2005.
Was there a particular cheese that sparked your interest?
I love most cheeses and was originally thinking I would make a goat’s cheese but I had a very good source of local cows milk from a farm close by so it made sense to develop something using their milk.
What is your favourite way to enjoy Tunworth?
I just love it really ripe with some crusty bread. It doesn’t get better than that! If I do bake Tunworth I put some honey and rosemary on it before it goes into the oven. The sweetness of the honey adds a different dimension to the flavour.
How has Tunworth evolved since the very first one you made in your kitchen?
Hugely! In the beginning I played around with different starter cultures and ripening cultures until I was happy with the flavour. I have had to learn a lot of the science behind cheesemaking in order to make a product that can be consistently good. The milk changes a lot during the year depending on the cow's diet and what stage of lactation they are in so every day is different. It's always a challenge but that’s what makes it so interesting.
Tunworth is one of our favourite cheeses, and knowing the care and patience that goes into each one makes it all the more delicious.