An exceptionally tasty, one-off cheese with a tragic tale
The story behind Errington Cheese and the exceptional batch of Cora Linn you’ll find on Neal’s Yard Dairy’s counter at the moment is in many ways a tragic one. In September 2016, a young girl died in an e-coli outbreak which, on the basis of highly disputable evidence, was wrongly attributed to Cora Linn’s producer, Errington Cheese. All of their existing cheeses were seized, and further production halted—leaving owners Selina Cairns and her father, Humphrey Errington, with little choice but to lay off their staff and fight to clear their name.
It’s been a long fight and a costly one—so it was with no small degree of excitement that we learnt Errington Cheese has had the ruling overturned, been cleared of breaching food safety laws, and won the right to sell cheese again.
Which brings us to Neal’s Yard Dairy and the buyers who, upon hearing of Errington’s victory, made haste to Lanarkshire—and discovered something remarkable. Far from deteriorating over the course of its two-year quarantine, which is a good 12 months beyond its usual maturation time, the 2016 batch of Cora Linn had deepened in flavour, granulated in texture, and developed a fruity, stocky, manchego-meets-parmesan taste. “We normally sell it at a much younger age,” says Estelle, manager of Neal’s Yard Dairy in Borough, “but when the buyers went on a selection visit, they realised how delicious it was. It was a happy accident”—and a godsend for Humphrey and Selina, whose livelihood rests in the hands of retailers like Neal’s Yard Dairy.
A rich stew
The cheese itself is made in the manner of a small, rustic cheddar—though because it’s sheep’s milk rather than cow’s, it is richer and creamier. “You can sense that in the mouth feel,” she continues. “Sheep’s milk is much fattier than cow’s milk.” Yet the extra maturation of this Cora Linn has somehow condensed this fattiness into flavour, like a rich stew that has been left for a day or two and deepened in taste. “You can use it like parmesan, if you like,” Estelle continues. Colleagues of hers have indeed grated it onto soups or pasta. We prefer it straight from the knife, with maybe a sliver of membrillo.
If you love parmesan, if you love manchego, if you love raw milk cheese and support the survival of small-scale artisans, then get yourself to Neal’s Yard Dairy and try a slice of Cora Linn. Rarely does the simple act of buying cheese have so much at stake.