Semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with an earthy, edible rind
“Cornish yarg is a pasteurised semi-soft cow’s milk cheese made using a traditional animal rennet. It is a mild, delicate cheese, with a creamy texture and slightly fluffy, more acidic centre,” Melanie explains from behind the counter at the veritable cathedral of cheese that is Neal’s Yard Dairy.
The first thing that you notice about this cheese is that it is wrapped in nettle leaves, which are gathered by a dedicated team of foragers between May and September. They are rinsed and sanitised before being applied to the outside of the cheese. As the cheese matures, a variety of moulds grow through the leaves to form a thin and earthy-tasting rind “adding a lovely layer of flavour to the cheese, with a hint of bitterness”.
The leaves also make this a very attractive cheese when bought whole, which makes it a popular choice for a rather surprising use: making wedding ‘cakes’. The pattern the nettle leaves make on the rind make this a firm favourite.
“People ask if they should eat the rind and the answer is definitely yes,” Melanie says. “Even if you are one of those people who tend not to eat the rind of cheese, I would say it is a must with Cornish yarg because there is so much interesting flavour there—in fact, I personally think it is one of the best parts of the cheese. Also, it is not a hard rind, so it is not difficult to eat.”
Specific taste profile
Cornish yarg comes under the banner of what Neal’s Yard calls “territorial cheeses”, meaning it has been made in the traditional way, in a particular area. Historically, many areas developed a particular style of cheese, with a specific taste profile based on the local environment—the breed of animal, the type of grass they fed on—which in turn affected the nature of the milk the farm produced.
“The cheese made in a farm in Cheshire would be very different to the cheese made on a farm in Cornwall, say. So when we place a cheese in this category, it means it is a very good example of the typical cheeses of that area.”
Our cheese guide suggests that if you have not tried it before, it is perfect for a cheeseboard. “You want to put it at the beginning of a cheeseboard, as you should always start with something mild or delicate before going on to the more pungent cheeses, then possibly end with a blue or saltier type of cheese,” she advises.
The very best way to eat it is immediately, says Melanie with a glint in her eye, but if you do want to keep it for a few days, leave it keep it wrapped in the white wax paper it comes in and leave it somewhere dark and cool. It does not have to go into the fridge unless you want to keep it for at least week.
If you can wait to get it home, the beautiful texture of the cheese works beautifully in recipes such as Tom Hunt’s nettle and Cornish yarg tart—a winning combination for cool autumnal evenings.