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Suffolk cheesemakers St Jude gets ready to debut its newest cheese

PUBLISHED: 19:00 27 October 2020

Julie Cheyney and Blake Bowden of St. Jude Cheese. The pair are ready to release their first semi-hard cheese, and their fourth overall Picture: St. Jude Cheese

Julie Cheyney and Blake Bowden of St. Jude Cheese. The pair are ready to release their first semi-hard cheese, and their fourth overall Picture: St. Jude Cheese

Archant

St Helena will be sold at selected East Anglian stockists over the coming weeks.

St Helena being produced in the cheeseroom Picture: St Jude CheeseSt Helena being produced in the cheeseroom Picture: St Jude Cheese

Purveyors of local cheese Julie Cheyney and Blake Bowden of St. Jude Cheese have been working hard during lockdown to craft a brand-new creation that is ready to take the dairy world by storm.

St Helena is the pair’s newly-crafted semi-hard cheese – a first for the cheesemakers. Julie explains what it is that inspired them to make something a little bit firmer, how it’s made and when you’ll be able to get your hands on some.

The dairy-loving duo, who are based at Fen Farm on the Suffolk/Norfolk border, are incredibly passionate about the cheese they make – and aren’t afraid to experiment.

“Blake, who works for me, joined me a couple of years ago. He’s always been a chef, but he turned up on my doorstep saying he’d love to come and learn cheesemaking, and had always wanted to make his own,” explained Julie.

The cheese is named after St Helena in Australia where Blake lived as a young boy Picture: Simon BuckThe cheese is named after St Helena in Australia where Blake lived as a young boy Picture: Simon Buck

“After he’d been with me for a year, we started researching and experimenting, and I supported him in making St Helena which we’ve now just added to our portfolio.”

But what exactly is St Helena, and where does the name come from?

“It’s not a true hard cheese, it’s a semi-hard cheese and there’s a big of give in it. It’s a bit like a Saint-Nectaire. There’s quite a firm rind around it, which has a pinky-yellow blush to it, and once you cut inside, it’s quite a squidgy, yellow cheese. I think it transfers the lovely, creamy flavours of the raw, unpasteurised milk from the Montbéliarde cows through to the cheese.”

Montbéliarde is a breed of red pied dairy cow from the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France that is particularly revered for the milk it produces, which is especially popular in cheesemaking. Like many farmhouse cheeses, the cheeses the duo make are known for their slight shift in flavour – this is due to the seasonal influence that stems from the cow’s diet.

Behind the scenes during the production of St Helena cheese Picture: St Jude CheeseBehind the scenes during the production of St Helena cheese Picture: St Jude Cheese

“The cheese also has quite a nutty, savoury flavour. Not only can you have it on a cheeseboard but you can do some wonderful things with it - it’s a great melting cheese and it makes an amazing toastie. The name St Helena comes from the district in Australia that Blake lived in when he was a young boy.”

Julie and Blake are both well-established in the cheese world, and have become known for their soft, artisanal creations, including their titular St Jude, which is a soft, mould ripened cheese with a soft flavour, and St Cera – a washed rind version of St Jude which develops stronger flavours.

So how did the two go about crafting their first firm cheese, and how does the process differ when compared to making softer cheeses?

Julie Cheyney and Blake Bowden's St Helena cheese is the pair's first semi-firm cheese Picture: Simon BuckJulie Cheyney and Blake Bowden's St Helena cheese is the pair's first semi-firm cheese Picture: Simon Buck

“The other cheeses that we produce are known as a lactic-style cheese – so the milk comes into our cheeseroom at around 5am, and it’s not until 22 hours later that we ladle the curd into the cheese moulds. It’s a very slow, gentle acidification of the milk, and then the curd once we set it with the rennet.

“But when it comes to making St Helena, it’s a very fast process. The milk comes into the cheeseroom at 5am and within five hours, we’ve got it all in the moulds. It’s done at a much higher temperature, it acidifies much more quickly and the curd is cut smaller and stirred. Those curd chunks are then put into cheese moulds and pressed down under their own weight.

“It’s quite a different style, but it’s just so wonderful that you can do much with the same raw, unpasteurised milk that we use in our soft cheeses. Milk is just such an amazing thing to work with.”

Sold as one-kilogram wheels, St Helena will be available from a selected number of stockists across East Anglia in the coming weeks, including Slate who have shops in Aldeburgh and Southwold, and Roger Holme Foods in King’s Lynn.

St Helena has a firm rind, with a softer centre Picture: Simon BuckSt Helena has a firm rind, with a softer centre Picture: Simon Buck

And once we’ve got some – what shall we pair it with? “I think it would go really well with a beer or a cider,” added Julie.

“Something fruity - maybe a little bit yeasty. Ampersand is a lovely company who brews homemade beers near us in Bungay, and I think I’d choose one of their IPA-style beers to have alongside it.”

Be sure to keep an eye out on St Jude’s social media pages for the latest St Helena news.

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