This is a hard-pressed cheese made from sheep’s milk in a similar way to an Italian Pecorino. It is matured for a minimum of nine months. During this time it develops a natural rind and an intensely nutty flavour. It is a great for grating over pasta or risotto dishes instead of Parmigiano Reggiano. The name itself comes from the village of Spencer’s Wood (Berkshire) which is very close to where Village Maid make their cheeses.
Anne Wigmore set up Village Maid Cheese in the mid 1980s having previously worked as a microbiologist at the National Institute for Research in Dairying. She had developed a passion for cheesemaking whilst at the Institute and a love of Italian sheep’s milk cheese (Pecorino) whilst travelling in Sardinia. Working out of a small purpose-built unit in her garden she began experimenting in order to produce a sheep’s milk cheese of her own. Spenwood is the culmination of many years of trials and even today, changes are continually made in order to maintain the quality and flavour Anne fell in love with in Sardinia.
Anne has played an important role in the re-introduction of sheep’s milk cheese to Britain. Sheep’s milk cheeses had almost disappeared by the 18th century and it is only in relatively recent times that they have started to make a comeback. In the mid 1980s it was easier to buy small quantities of local sheep’s milk rather than cow’s milk but as Anne and her husband Andy expanded production they needed more and more milk. They now buy in sheep’s milk from three different dairies, with deliveries coming several times a week.
We visit the Village Maid dairy every 2 weeks to buy our cheese direct from them. This means that we have the opportunity to chat to the cheesemakers and find out what their plans are for the future. We also feature 3 other cheeses from Village Maid. They are Waterloo, Wigmore and Maida Vale.
Spenwood has won several accolades, the pinnacle of which is a Super Gold medal at the World Cheese Awards.
It pairs beautifully with a dry, white Burgundy.