What is Berkswell? The Rustic Gem of English Cheeses

What is Berkswell? The Rustic Gem of English Cheeses - Cheese Origin

Berkswell, the rustic gem of English cheeses, is a unique creation born in the quaint village of Berkswell, West Midlands. This artisanal cheese, crafted from unpasteurized ewe’s milk, showcases an exquisite marriage of tradition and innovation. With a distinct sweet and nutty flavor profile, Berkswell stands as a testament to the rich heritage of English cheese-making.

It’s more than just a cheese; it’s a tasting journey through the lush pastures of Ram Hall Farm, where each wheel is meticulously handcrafted. Welcome to the world of Berkswell, where every bite tells a story of authenticity and passion.

Quick Facts About Berkswell

OriginOriginates from the village of Berkswell in the West Midlands, England.
TypeHard, artisanal cheese made from sheep’s milk.
ProductionProduced at Ram Hall Farm by the Fletcher family.
Ageing PeriodTypically aged for 6 months to 1 year.
Flavor ProfileRich, complex flavor with notes of honey and citrus.
TextureFirm texture, similar to Parmesan, and a distinctive rind patterned by the colander it’s molded in.
AwardsHas won multiple awards, including at the British Cheese Awards.
PairingsPairs well with full-bodied red wines, figs, and honey.
Use in CookingIdeal for grating over pasta, risotto, and salads due to its hard texture.
AvailabilityAvailable year-round, but the flavor varies depending on the season.
Shelf LifeCan be stored in a cool, dry place for several weeks.

What is Berkswell?

What is Berkswell?

Berkswell, a cheese that embodies the rural charm of the English countryside, is a delightful discovery for any cheese connoisseur. Originating from the quaint village of Berkswell in the West Midlands, this hard cheese is the pride of Ram Hall Farm. Crafted meticulously by the Fletcher family, Berkswell is a testament to the craft of traditional cheesemaking.

A sheep’s milk cheese with a character all its own, Berkswell is aged anywhere between six months to a year. As it matures, it develops a distinctive rind patterned by the colander it’s moulded in. This not only makes it visually appealing but also adds a unique texture that sets it apart from other hard cheeses.

But it’s the flavor profile that truly distinguishes Berkswell. Its complex, rich taste is a sensory journey, with surprising notes of honey and citrus, offering a sweet and tangy counterpoint to its savory base. The seasonal variations in its flavor make each wheel of Berkswell a unique experience, reflecting the changing pastures on which the sheep graze.

Berkswell’s firm texture and robust flavor make it a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. It grates beautifully over pasta and risotto, adding an extra layer of flavor to these dishes. Paired with full-bodied red wines, figs, or a drizzle of honey, Berkswell transforms any cheese board into a gastronomic adventure.

With multiple awards to its name, including honors at the British Cheese Awards, Berkswell has secured its place in the pantheon of fine cheeses. Whether you’re a seasoned cheese lover or a curious foodie, Berkswell represents a slice of England’s rich culinary heritage that’s well worth exploring.

Berkswell Tasting Notes

  • Texture: Berkswell cheese has a hard, dry, and slightly grainy texture, similar to a well-aged Parmesan. The rind is firm and patterned owing to the colander moulding process.
  • Color: The cheese sports a natural hue that ranges from pale yellow to golden, while the rind is usually a deeper brown.
  • Aroma: Berkswell exudes a mild, earthy aroma with hints of the barnyard, reflecting its rustic origins and sheep’s milk base.
  • Taste: The flavor profile of Berkswell is rich and complex. It starts with a deep savory taste, akin to most hard cheeses, but soon unfolds into surprising notes of sweet honey and tangy citrus.
  • Aftertaste: The finish is long and pleasant, with a lingering sweetness and a slight nutty undertone. This makes it a cheese that stays with you, in the best possible way.
  • Seasonal Variations: The flavor of Berkswell can vary depending on the season, reflecting the changing diet of the sheep whose milk is used. This adds an extra layer of depth to its tasting experience.

How to Eat Berkswell?

  • Cheese Board Star: Due to its unique flavor profile, Berkswell can be the star of your cheese board. Pair it with fresh figs, a drizzle of honey, or a chunk of rustic bread for a delightful treat.
  • Wine Pairing: Berkswell’s rich and complex taste pairs exceptionally well with full-bodied red wines. The deep, fruity notes of the wine complement the sweet and tangy flavors of the cheese.
  • Cooking Companion: Grate Berkswell over pasta, risotto, or salads. Its firm texture and robust flavor add a gourmet touch to any dish.
  • Dessert Cheese: Try pairing Berkswell with a sweet dessert wine and some dark chocolate for an indulgent end to a meal.
  • Picnic Essential: Owing to its firm texture and long shelf life, Berkswell is perfect for picnics. Pack it with some fresh fruit and crusty bread for a simple, delicious outdoor meal.
  • Breakfast Buddy: For a savory start to the day, include thin slices of Berkswell in your breakfast. It goes well with eggs, tomatoes, and whole-grain toast.
  • Seasonal Enjoyment: As the flavor of Berkswell varies with the seasons, try tasting it at different times of the year. This way, you can appreciate the subtle changes and nuances in its taste.

10 Best Berkswell Substitutes

SubstituteOriginCharacteristicsBest Use
ManchegoSpainMade from sheep’s milk, Manchego has a firm texture and a nutty, sweet flavor.Ideal for tapas or cheese boards.
Pecorino RomanoItalyThis sheep’s milk cheese offers a salty, sharp taste with a hard texture.Great for grating over pasta dishes.
Parmigiano ReggianoItalyKnown for its hard texture and rich, savory flavor.A versatile cheese, perfect for grating or eaten alone.
Aged CheddarEnglandThis cheese provides a robust, tangy flavor and firm texture.Excellent for cooking or in sandwiches.
Aged GoudaThe NetherlandsAged Gouda has a caramel sweetness and a dense, hard texture.Perfect for cheese boards or pairing with fruit.
AsiagoItalyOffers a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and can range from semi-soft to hard in texture.Works well in sandwiches or grated over dishes.
ComtéFranceComté has a complex, nutty flavor and a firm but supple texture.Ideal for cooking or on a cheese platter.
Grana PadanoItalyThis cheese has a grainy texture and a delicate, nutty flavor.Excellent for grating or shaving over dishes.
RoquefortFranceA blue cheese made from sheep’s milk, Roquefort has a bold, tangy flavor.Ideal for salads or gourmet cooking.
ZamoranoSpainThis sheep’s milk cheese offers a buttery and slightly piquant taste with a firm texture.Perfect for cheese boards or pairing with wine.

What Pairs Well With Berkswell?

What Pairs Well With Berkswell?

Food that goes well with Berkswell:

FruitPears, Apples, Figs, Grapes
NutsAlmonds, Walnuts, Pecans
Bread/CrackersRustic Bread, Water Crackers, Olive Oil Crackers
Meat/ProteinProsciutto, Salami, Smoked Salmon
CondimentsHoney, Fig Jam, Quince Paste
VegetablesRoasted Red Peppers, Olives, Sun-dried Tomatoes
DessertsDark Chocolate, Fruit Tarts, Cheesecake
GrainsQuinoa, Farro, Couscous
Herbs & SpicesRosemary, Thyme, Black Pepper

Also read: What Fruit Goes on a Charcuterie Board?

Beverage that goes well with Berkswell:

WineSauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rioja
BeerBelgian Ale, IPA, Stout
SpiritsWhiskey, Brandy, Port
Non-AlcoholicSparkling Water, Apple Cider, Grape Juice
TeaGreen Tea, Oolong Tea, Herbal Infusions
CoffeeEspresso, French Press, Cold Brew

Also read: Best Wine and Cheese Pairings: The Ultimate Guide

The History of Berkswell Cheese

Berkswell Cheese, a hard cheese with a unique UFO-like shape, has an interesting history that is as captivating as its flavor. This cheese hails from the West Midlands of England, more specifically, Ram Hall Farm near the village of Berkswell.

The story of Berkswell Cheese began in the late 1980s, a time when Sheila Fletcher and Sally Rogers decided to cease dairy milking and venture into cheese production. This decision marked the inception of this unique cheese, setting the stage for a transformative journey in the world of cheese-making.

Steven Fletcher, initially a dairy farmer, was keeping cattle solely for milk sales. However, in the early 1980s, he gradually replaced his cattle with sheep. It was not until the end of the decade that the first batch of Berkswell Cheese was produced. The cheese-making process commenced in the autumn of 1989 after the initial sheep milking started in January of the same year.

For over 20 years, Berkswell cheese has been made at Ram Hall Farm using milk from their own sheep. This cheese is influenced by ewes’ milk cheeses from the Mediterranean region, reflected in its distinctive flavor profile.

Today, the cheese is made by a team of women at the dairy on Ram Hall Farm. They have diligently preserved the traditional cheese-making methods, ensuring that the essence of Berkswell Cheese remains unaltered over the years.

Over the past three decades, Berkswell Cheese has become a staple in the cheese world. Its out-of-the-world taste, combined with its rich history, makes it a beloved choice for cheese connoisseurs.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where is Berkswell cheese made?

Berkswell cheese is made at Ram Hall Farm, which is located in the village of Berkswell, Warwickshire, England. The cheese has been produced by the Fletcher family for over six generations. The entire process of cheese making, from managing the flock to the final production, is carefully handled by the family and their team. This cheese is known for its unique flavor, influenced by ewes’ milk cheeses from the Mediterranean region.

2. Is Berkswell cheese Pasteurised?

No, Berkswell cheese is not pasteurized. It’s made from unpasteurized ewe milk, using traditional methods at Ram Hall Farm near Berkswell, West Midlands, England.

3. What is the meaning of Berkswell?

Berkswell is the name of a village and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull, county of West Midlands, England. The name ‘Berkswell’ is believed to come from ‘Berk’s Well’, named after Saint Beorhthelsige, an Anglo-Saxon saint who was assumed to have baptized converts at a well in the village. The cheese Berkswell gets its name from this village, as it’s where it’s produced.

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