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