In the 70s Juliet set up The Parson’s Nose, a deli-cafe in Khandallah, Wellington. Four years later she sold up and set sail for a sabbatical in Europe. It lasted a little longer than intended. About forty years longer in fact.
Her original thought was to probe new ideas and discover what a real Italian deli would look like. She enrolled in a Parisian cooking school which turned out to be “more flash and chat than anything very useful”. But what it did do was open up the best butchers, bakers, fi shmongers in Paris as well as a wine shop which off ered wine and fi ve cheeses to try. “I was totally hooked.”
“My own knowledge of cheese was Colby, Blue Vein and Cheddar, so tasting a nutty goat cheese, double cream raw milk brie and a smelly wash rind literally changed my life. I went back to London, discovered the Brits weren’t really doing cheese right either, and decided to set up a cheese shop.”
The famous Jeroboams was the result. An immediate success, it was to be the platform to a life devoted to sharing her knowledge in encouraging chefs, retailers, foodies and non-foodies around the world – through tastings, classes, stories and of course the media – to further their cheese education.
In 1994 Juliet created the British Cheese Awards, a labour of love which dominated her life for more than 20 years. She also set up the NZ Cheese Awards, but gave the responsibility of running both away to make time for her many other cheese driven pursuits. The Great British Cheese Festival was her initiative in 2000; she helped set up the Specialist Cheesemakers Association and has worked closely with Slow Food since 1998.
She has written numerous books including The World Cheese Book (awarded Food Book of the Year in 2010) with sales of over 90,000 copies and translated into nine languages. Her multiple appearances on TV and radio include the Radio 4 Food Programme and Simply the Best.
The accolades Juliet has accumulated during her 25 years as a Cotswolds resident include Good Housekeeping’s Favourite Food Hero, Cotswold Life Food Personality of the Year and Dairy Person of the year. The French made her a member of the Guild des Fromagers, Confrerie de Saint- Uguzon then, in 1992, a Confrerie des Chevaliers du Taste-Fromage de France. You could say she is a fromage fanatic!
Her master classes and tastings to those who buy, sell or simply love cheese are highly sought-after all over the world. Educational and inspirational sessions; they provide a chance to discover its magic, its myths and its mysteries along with matchings to wine, cider, beer, whisky, port and much more. And Juliet’s professional workshops have become a ‘must’ for retailers, chefs, wholesalers and cheesemakers seeking the secrets of how to seduce the public through the taste of cheese.
The Art of Bringing up Cheese is a favourite. “Much as wine connoisseurs know the basic grape varieties and appreciate their individual character and tastes, so it is for cheese. But the difference is that with cheese you can actually identify it by its cover – or the rind it grows. Once you know its type you can determine ripeness, its behaviour when cooked, maturity and even a rough estimate of its taste.”
Such wisdom of course comes from decades devoted to the study of cheese. The essential ingredients of a good one are paramount. “Like any artisan product it’s the raw materials which make it great. The grazing must be varied to give milk its complexity, the animals must be well cared for and of course different breeds and different types of animals all produce very different milk. Then the cultures, moulds and yeasts needed by the cheesemaker to produce his or her own unique cheese need to be carefully managed. But, finally, it is the passion of the cheesemaker which gives the touch of magic.
“There is no doubt that like wine, cheese is the fruit of the soil. The grazing, the weather, the microclimate will all influence the final cheese. And New Zealand is no exception. I have found though that rather than creating original New Zealand cheese, the majority still try to copy Europe’s great classics. And just as champagne tastes diff erent to our own superb New Zealand bubbly so we no longer use the name, the same should be true of cheese. The grazing, climate, breed and the moulds that make Brie de Meaux are distinctly different to those for Camembert de Normandy, so naturally those made in our country using a similar recipe would still be very different.
“And there are some stunning artisan cheeses made in New Zealand which are every bit as good, but very different from those made in Europe.”
Ageing & serving
We all know that some cheeses fare better than others when it comes to age. Why? “Cheese is like fruit – each type varies and it depends on how ripe it already is and how it has been stored. Those in my fridge are discarded if they haven’t been eaten within three weeks. A good general rule is – the softer the cheese the shorter the shelf life. Hard cheeses will survive for weeks and the little mould they grow just needs to be sliced off .”
Juliet’s advice on storage is clear. “Best way is to keep it in its original wrapping from the cheesemaker. Once cut then either reuse this paper, especially for soft white type cheeses or wrap in a greaseproof or wax paper. If they are small pieces, then wrapping them in glad wrap is probably fi ne, then store them all in a sealed plastic box in the fridge.”
Her own ideas of the perfect cheeseboard are perfunctory: “It’s made up of at least four and preferably all seven of the types of cheese [see our sidebar on those]. This gives variety in colour, texture, taste and strength of flavour. And I always try and offer at least one goat and/ or ewe’s milk cheese.
“I love to serve fresh apples, pears or figs, dried figs, a selection of plain nuts and crusty bread. I find crackers tend to be too salty and too flavoured for most cheeses, but if you like crackers then try an oatcake or those delicious 180Degree walnut biscuits.”
Ideally she places them on a long cheeseboard. “There’s a man at the Hastings Market who does lovely boards. It just means it’s easier to get at and cut each cheese. Plus I prefer to use a different knife for each cheese so you don’t get blue on your brie or salty feta on your sweet buttery Danbo.”
Since setting up home and her business in Black Barn vineyard, Juliet has two of the Bay’s great cheesemakers on her doorstep. “I am so lucky. These are two of New Zealand’s best –Hohepa and Origin Earth. And they are in fact one of the reasons I chose to live in Havelock North. Like most in New Zealand, they make a wide range of cheese to appeal to a wide audience, but I do have my favourites.” And they are?
Pink & White Terraces, Origin Earth
“Finding the right name for a cheese is even harder than naming a child, but this is exactly what the cheese is. It has a pink ridge dusted with white penicillium mould and a distinctly smelly aroma. Washed in brine and then a little white wine, it has a superb supple elastic texture and tastes like peanuts, marmite, umami, with a buttery feel. It looks great on any cheeseboard alone or with friends and goes superbly with Hawke’s Bay pinot gris or rose.”
“Ignacio, now joined by Peter, has been making this cheese for over 30 years using milk from their Shorthorn cows that graze the lush herbal pastures on the salt marshes and the river banks around Clive. They have practiced sustainable organic farming since establishing the village in 1960 and without doubt this contributes to the complexity and character of the cheeses.”
Juliet explains that the original recipe was Danish, “but Ignacio has made it his own. Buttery and sweet when young, it becomes more like cheese sauce as it ages until it reaches the grand age of twenty months when it is hard and dense with crunchy calcium calcite crystals that explode in the mouth releasing the complex flavours trapped inside. It’s perfect for any cheese occasion and shouts out for a Hawke’s Bay cider or big strong red.”
After so long living in the UK, moving to the Bay is a big step. But it won’t stop her travels. With a list of contacts that spans the world Juliet will continue to work both here and internationally providing workshops, master classes and tastings, as well as creating events. The world for her definitely says “cheese.” The smiling variety.
There is a French saying – “Those who do not eat cheese will go mad” – so in the interests of keeping our sanity, Juliet highlights the varieties that may help thwart such a fate.
Fresh cheeses- NO RIND
Examples: Cream Cheese, Ricotta, Feta, Mozzarella, Halloumi
1-15 days old, bright white, without time to develop a rind and a subtle ‘lactic’, fermenting fruit flavour with a hint of the green pastures.
Aged fresh – GREY BLUE with WRINKLY RINDS
Examples: St Maure, St Marcellin, Crottin, The Nanny, Flying 15, Tanara
Small cheeses left to dry out, gradually developing a delicate bluish grey geotricum mould, a wrinkled rind and a more pronounced flavour. These are most typically found in France and usually made with goats’ milk.
Soft white- WHITE FUZZY RIND
Examples: Camembert de Normandy, Brie de Meaux, Chevre Log
The curd retains much of the whey, ensuring the cheese becomes soft and creamy and grows a white mould, Penicillin candidum. Unpasteurised varieties develop a reddish-brown ferment on the rind. Those made by adding cream to the milk are more luxurious in taste and texture. Examples: Explorateur, Brillat Savarin.
Semi-soft- BROWN-ORANGE to GREY-BROWN
Examples: Edam, Havarti, Colby, Young Danbo, Kinzett Creek
The moist curd is placed in moulds and lightly pressed to speed up draining. Gradually various moulds develop, these are regularly brushed off building up a thickish rind, protecting the cheese and allowing it to mature. Some are ‘washed’ creating an orange/pink rind with a strong, piquant flavour and aroma. Examples: Langres, Epoisses, Origin Earth Pink & White Terraces.
Hard – THICK, DENSE RIND OFTEN WAXED or OILED
Examples: Cheddar, Wensleydale, Parmesan, Mature Danbo
The curd is cut finely, heated in vats before the whey is drained off. The curd is cut again and sometimes in the case of cheddar ‘milled’ or chopped again before being salted, packed in moulds lined with cheesecloth and firmly pressed.
Blue – GRITTY, ROUGH, DRY or STICKY
Examples: Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Blue Vein, Blue Monkey, Hohepa Blue
The blue moulds, P. glaucum or P. Roqueforti, are added to the milk but need oxygen to develop their colour. This is achieved by piercing the cheese with rods [normally steel but can be wood or plastic], the blue then grows along the tunnel, cracks and trails between the roughly packed curds.
Flavour added – BARELY FORMED RIND
Examples: Gouda with Cumin, Wensleydale with Cranberry, Danbo with Fenugreek
Hard cheeses to which ingredients are added to the curd or rubbed into the rind such as nuts, fruit, spices, herbs, hops and nettles and include smoked cheeses. Blended cheeses are made by breaking up young cheeses, combining them with various sweet or savoury ingredients then re-forming them into cheese. A rapidly growing area of the market that offers an alternative to those who like dessert rather than cheese, or who are not sure they like cheese.