Dorset Blue Vinney Cheese, Dorset
Arthur Lowe , the actor most famous for playing Captain Mainwaring in Dadís Army, told a lovely story of dining in an English hotel and asking if they had cheese, the response being that they did, both sorts. English cheese making did decline in the first half of the 20th century, though happily never to two sorts, some local specialties almost disappearing. Today, by contrast, craft cheese-making is alive and well throughout the country, supermarkets stocking a wide variety, and specialists selling the very best. Blue Vinney is just such a survival tale, having for a couple of decades Ė the sixties and seventies - ceased production.
Blue Vinney has been made for many centuries in Dorset , the word vinney probably being a corruption of the West Country dialect word (possibly going back to old English) vinew, meaning mouldy or to go mouldy, though others believe it to mean veiny, referring to the blue veins within the cheese.
As with so many great foodstuffs, Blue Vinney was derived from the need to make use of every resource. It was made from milk that had had the cream removed for use in butter or indeed cream, the residue being low in fat content. It is this lack of cream that leads to the characteristically hard texture of the cheese, and also meant that because of improved creaming technology the cheese dropped out of sight for a time, as the residue from which it is made had so little cream left.
Traditionally the cheeses were left in damp barns and similar places, where the moulds would thrive in the atmosphere and lurk in the corners, ready to work their magic on the cheese. These days such practices would be frowned upon, so the unmolded cheeses once made have a prepared paste of mould painted or layered on them. As the cheeses mature they are penetrated with spikes to let the veins develop towards the centre of the product. This maturation lasts from two or three months to as long as 18.
The end product of all this is a hard cheese, rather yellower than its cousin Stilton , the veins a pleasing blue or even turquoise colour. Even tasting the cheese blindfold you would know it was blue, such is the sharpness of the mould within the mix of flavours.