Welsh firm to mature its cheeses in caves for ‘underground flavour’

Neanderthals used them as a burial place, their walls bear Stone Age cave paintings and more recently couples have been able to book them as an other-worldly subterranean wedding venue. Now, the National Showcaves of Wales outside Swansea are providing ideal conditions for storing and maturing Welsh cheeses.
The Blaenafon Cheddar Company, which already matures one of its cheddars at the bottom of Big Pit mineshaft, is to start storing thousands of its specialist handmade cheeses in the 11-mile cave system at Dan yr Ogof in south Wales.

Blessed are the cheese-makers-1Which way’s the cheese aisle? The Blaenavon Cheddar Company has started storing and maturing their products in caves outside Swansea

The unusual move follows a successful six-month trial storage period.The firm said it was looking to produce a unique Welsh ‘cave cheese’ taste.

Ashford Price, National Showcaves of Wales operator, said that even in prehistoric times cave dwellers realised that the temperature in caves remained more or less constant throughout the year.

Blessed are the cheese-makers-2Is it ready yet? Jay Thomas, catering director of the cave complex, checks the cheese in Angel Passage of the Dan Yr Ogof cave complex

He said: ‘Cave dwellers soon realised that caves had a constant natural internal temperature as they were cool places for them to go during the summer’s heat, but had a warmish ambient and constant background temperature of 10°C in the winter.

‘Thousands of years later, in the 1600s, cheese was first left in caves to mature.

‘This dampness proved an ideal environment for the cheeses to mature in,’ he told Walesonline, adding that this meant the cheeses did not dry out or lose much of their original weight as they matured. 

‘As the cheeses matured they picked up a unique underground flavour and texture.’

The Blaenafon Cheddar Co approached the caves to see if they could store cheeses for a six-month trial maturing process.

In the trial cheeses were stored a quarter of a mile underground.

The Blaenafon Cheddar Co will now be putting batches of cheese in to the caves once a fortnight.

Susan Fiander-Woodhouse, managing director of the Blaenafon Cheddar Company, said the venture marked ‘a great partnership’ between a food business and tourism.

Tourists will be able to see the cheese containers in the cave and sample the cheese in the coffee shop.

Blessed are the cheese-makers-3Tasting for tourists: visitors to the vast underground cave network can sample the uniquely flavoured cheese

Blessed are the cheese-makers-4Going underground: the caves near Swansea were only discovered a century ago and in 2005 were voted Britain’s greatest natural wonder

Blessed are the cheese-makers5Wonder: the caves at Dan yr Ogof are part of an 11-mile network, parts of which are only open to experienced cavers

Mr Price said: ‘It is hoped this Welsh cave cheese will become one of the tastes of Wales for tourists to enjoy.

‘It is already proving very popular with overseas visitors.’

The cave complex was explored by two local brothers in 1912, Tommy and Jeff Morgan, using candles and a system of drawing arrows in sand and earth to show themselves the way back.

Unsure of what they would discover, they armed themselves with a revolver.

In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, Dan yr Ogof was named as the greatest natural wonder in Britain.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.