A tale of dering do …and a bull
The instructions for getting to Ullacombe farm shop when I was staying in Devon seemed a little vague: to avoid the main road “you can walk to Green Lane, down a bit, and then take a left hand farm track over a few fields to the farm shop” they instructed, then warning, “not ideal when walking back with heavy bags of food”.
Nothing daunted, on a glorious summers day I headed off, stopping at a farm gate to admire the view across Dartmoor. Glancing down I noticed a ‘fierce bull’ warning sign. I couldn’t see the animal but all the same I kept smugly to my side of the fence.
I continued on, exploring every possible left hand farm track and ending up in potting sheds, art studios, cottages and finally ending up in Islington. No, not the Islington of kitchen-beset Labour MPs (I hadn’t walked that far although it was beginning to feel like it) but a sleepy village consisting mostly of a red post box and some ancient, dusty curled announcements. I asked. I asked riders, cyclists, and even the postmen… all shook their heads when it came to left hand farm tracks.
There was only one other possibility. It had looked more like a field than a track, but … I stepped confidently through. I’d got about half way across when I heard a sort of snort and a kind of stamping-the-ground rustling. I looked over my shoulder, a big black heavy shape loomed. I began to think…. only one animal in a field….hmmm… didn’t see anything in the bull field I’ve just passed….hmmm.
Then more thoughts. I’d only been in a field with a bull once before when wearing a lipstick-red climbing jacket. On that occasion my heroic beloved had saved the situation, stepping between the bull and the red rag that I was taunting it with.
On this occasion I was wearing a summer-bright coral jersey, and I was alone. I made it, walking measuredly, to the gate at the far side of the field, which was completely overgrown with vicious brambles, the type that might protect Sleeping Beauty’s castle. And I found myself, scratched and torn, breathing hard, back on…. the main road.
Some Devon foodie treasures
Finally reaching the farm shop I treated my intrepid self to all sorts of treasures as a reward for bravery:
- Round courgettes
- Meaty Portobello mushrooms
- Honey and mustard from Quince Honey Farm
- Exmoor jersey blue
And… the pièce de resistance…
- Sharpham Rustic
Ah yes, the Sharpham Rustic.
Sharpham Rustic is a semi-hard cows’cheese, moist but slightly chalky in texture. It’s hand-produced, unpasteurised, and is made using vegetarian rennet. It has a rather unusual flying-saucer-like shape due to being drained for two days in a basket mould. It’s a young cheese, matured for four to eight weeks, dry salted and turned once a week.
It has a fresh and lemony flavour, (going well in a tomato salad post to come), and it’s also good to nibble at with cold dry cider or a rich red wine or a rosé – maybe one of Sharpham’s own!
I wanted to find out a bit more about it. Mark Sharman, Managing Director, Sharpham Wine and Cheese told me:
Sharpham cheese making started here on the farm in 1981. The original Sharpham ‘brie style’ was made for several years as the only commercial cheese. Then when Debbie took over as cheesemaker in 1989 she developed the triple cream Elmhirst. Shortly after that in 1991 the production of the two styles of rustic cheese began, as we wanted to produce a cheese that could be aged and kept to mature if required. As you say it is generally eaten quite young. This gives the cheese a fresh lemony lactic tang that people seem to love. Of course the flavour of the rich Jersey milk is fundamental to the flavour of all the cheeses.
Our herd of Jersey cows whose pedigree goes back to 1952 is now being milked for us on a nearby farm but we still collect the fresh milk to make into cheese each morning so there is no effect on the cheese production.
The ‘basket moulds’ are actually colanders used for draining foods like pasta and vegetables. When we started they were cheap and readily available!
I would concur that Sharpham Rustic and Sharpham Rose is a match made in heaven!
There are viewing windows into the cheese dairy where visitors to the farm shop can watch cheese making in progress. One young lad was heard to say to his parents ‘Look they are making flying saucers of cheese’!