Traditionally it was made on small farms in the counties of Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire, South and Mid Wales. Thought to have first appeared in the 1800s in the town of Caerphilly. This hard, crumbly white cheese has been a favourite cheese on most cheeseboards since. The only break in production being for WW2, when the Ministry of Food decided to focus all production on longer lasting cheeses.
Like many hard cheeses of the 1800s, such as Cheshire or Cheddar, Caerphilly cheese was highly valued and an easily portable food source. So, in 1830, when demand was at its peak, a cheese market was set up to cater for it. In fact, the Victorians set up cheese markets across the UK to trade in regional cheeses such as Cheddar, Cheshire or Stilton.
Although a simple cheese in appearance its complex taste and texture is a pure masterpiece of the cheesemakers art. Gorwydd Caerphilly was first made by the Trethowan brothers; Maughan and Todd, 25 years ago near Llanddewi Brefi in the Teifi Valley. In 2014 the brothers moved to north Somerset where they continue to make Gorwydd Caerphilly. At the new farm, they made Gorwydd Caerphilly using single source milk to maintain quality and taste.
Despite being considered a truly Welsh cheese, Caerphilly does have a long history of being made in the West Country. The recipe used for Gorwydd Caerphilly was originally used for cheesemaking in Somerset and first appears in books at the beginning of the 20th century.
Each cheese is made with unpasteurised cows milk and heated to 68 degrees centigrade, for 2 minutes, Then the starter and traditional animal rennet is added to form the curds and whey. The whey being a by-product and often made into either farm butter or fed to the farm pigs.
Tod and Maughan cut the curds by hand, using a long-bladed knife that actually touches the bottom of the cheese vat. They cut the curds three ways to produce small and very floppy cubes approximately 1cm square. The curds are stirred by hand, in the whey, until the desired acidity is reached. A traditional sign of this acidity is when an imprint of a hand remains when pressed into the curds.
The whey is then drained off and the curds are cut again before being piled into moulds, each lined with cheesecloth. These moulds are then stacked three to four cheeses high and placed under an iron cheese press. Pressure is applied for between 20 and 30 minutes to further drain the cheeses of any liquid whey.
The day after pressing, the cheeses are moved into maturing rooms, which are kept at a cool temperature, for three to four months. This allows the distinctive rind to form and its wonderful taste to develop.
Gorwydd Caerphilly is a moist, crumbly cheese that is semi-firm in texture. It has an ivory white rind that with maturity changes to a blueish grey colour. It has a delicious and slightly lemony fresh taste that sometimes when the grazing is at its best (in the late spring and early summer months) has an almost herbaceous sweetness infusion.
Gorwydd Caerphilly fresh flavour means that it can be used in many ways not only as a cut cheese on a cheeseboard but it can be cooked in either sweet or savoury dishes.
Try with a chilled bottle of Welsh Mountain Cider. Real welsh cider that is cellared for up to 10 years to develop the complexity of taste that balances beautifully Gorwydd Caerphilly.
Perhaps the most well known is Welsh Rarebit, a hot cheese-based sauce served over toasted slices of bread. It can also be mixed with beer, an egg, Worcestershire Sauce and mustard to create an inspiring supper dish served with crusty bread. Chef Ceri Jones of Natural Kitchen Adventures developed an outstanding dish using Caerphilly; Leek and Caerphilly Welsh Rarebit.
Although the cheese is made with unpasteurised raw milk it is considered safe to eat for pregnant women under the NHS guidelines but as it uses animal rennet then its unsuitable for vegetarians.
Gorwydd Caerphilly is best at room temperature. Remove from the fridge when you open your bottle of wine; thus allowing the temperature of the cheese to slowly rise.
When you have finished. resist the temptation to wrap the cheese in cling film or place in an airtight container. Cheese needs to breathe or it will sweat. So rewrap in the wax paper your cheesemonger used and place it in the crisper draw of your fridge. Cheese stored like this will keep for up to 14 days from the date it was cut by your cheesemonger. If some white blooming appears, it is totally natural, don’t be concerned, just remove it and enjoy the remainder of your Gorwydd Caerphilly