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  • Claudia Romeo: The defining qualities of Cornish Yarg cheese

  • are a dark-green rind and a candid white mold.

  • The rind actually comes from these leaves,

  • called stinging nettles,

  • which are brushed on by hand one by one.

  • The nettles give the cheese a fresh, creamy taste

  • with hints of herbs, seaweed, and lemon.

  • Cornish Yarg may not be as popular as other English cheeses

  • like Stilton or traditional cheddar,

  • but it's just as rare

  • because it can only be made in one place.

  • We're in the hedgerows of Ponsanooth, Cornwall,

  • and these right here are the nettle leaves

  • that are used to wrap Cornish Yarg.

  • Imagine, there are only five people in the whole world

  • that know how to properly wrap a Cornish Yarg.

  • So, how did this recipe even come about?

  • Well, it was actually found randomly

  • in a book about 400 years ago.

  • Fascinating, isn't it?

  • Well, I'm certainly intrigued,

  • so it's time for us to go and find out more.

  • There's only one dairy in the world

  • that makes this cheese:

  • Lynher Dairies, in the heart of Cornwall.

  • Like all cheeses, it all starts here:

  • with fresh milk, rennet,

  • and, in this case, cultures.

  • You see these beautiful white molds around the cheese?

  • That's what the cultures will trigger

  • in the aging process later on.

  • Leighton: You need to disperse the whey

  • bit by bit, gently.

  • If you take the whey off too quickly,

  • you won't leave enough behind for the cultures to feed on.

  • The sugar is in the whey.

  • Your cheese will be very metallic, very cheddary,

  • which you don't want.

  • Claudia: Leighton will test the whey

  • up to 20 times per vat between each step.

  • He does it to monitor its temperature

  • and those levels of lactic acid,

  • which will give us a crumbly cheese.

  • For a few hours, the day goes like this:

  • cutting, testing, cutting, testing.

  • They're big, huh?

  • Leighton: The curd itself is still quite delicate.

  • And you can see, underneath, the pattern.

  • You can see the curds, the individual curds.

  • Claudia: Yes, yes.

  • But they still stick together, even though --

  • Leighton: It always wants to knit itself together.

  • Claudia: Oh, I see,

  • 'cause they remember where they came from.

  • [Leighton laughs]

  • Once all the whey is drained,

  • all that is left is salting the curd,

  • cutting it again into very small pieces,

  • placing it into molds,

  • and pressing them.

  • After it spends 24 hours in the press and in brine,

  • we have a beautiful white canvas

  • that is ready to turn into a Cornish Yarg.

  • The only people fit for the job are these ladies:

  • the nettlers.

  • Every year between May and July,

  • they go out in the fields

  • to carefully pick the stinging nettles

  • that are used to wrap the cheese.

  • This large quantity of nettles is kept frozen

  • to freeze off the small needlelike structures that sting

  • and cause a rash when they touch human skin.

  • Jenny: So, what we have to ensure

  • is to make sure that this leaf is dipped,

  • completely immersed five times.

  • Claudia: Oh, five times?

  • Jenny: Because you're actually washing it.

  • And then, with the --

  • as you see, there's a furry side and there's a shiny side.

  • The shiny side goes against the cheese.

  • So what you're trying to do is make that leaf

  • stick on that cheese.

  • And then with your brush take your moisture out.

  • And then what you do is you just cover the cheese.

  • Claudia: All right.

  • And do you have a specific pattern in mind

  • when you do it? Jenny: Yes, we do.

  • Claudia: Oh, yeah? Jenny: Yeah.

  • We call it dragon's teeth.

  • And you can see, it's, like, up and down.

  • So it's quite therapeutic.

  • [Claudia laughs]

  • Claudia: That's true.

  • Jenny: Mesmerizing sometimes.

  • Claudia: So, how many years have you been doing this?

  • Jenny: This is my 15th.

  • Claudia: Wow!

  • So, what will these nettles do to the actual cheese?

  • Jenny: It gives a lovely earthy flavor.

  • It completely surrounds the cheese,

  • so it's giving it a protective layer.

  • It's very, very quirky.

  • It's very unusual. No one else does it.

  • Claudia: To see if I could create a Cornish Yarg myself,

  • I gave nettling a go.

  • OK, so I pick it up from the top.

  • Jenny: Pick it up. Keep it in your left hand.

  • Spread your fingers out like you're doing,

  • and then submerge that five times.

  • Claudia: Three, four, five.

  • Jenny: OK. So then the shiny side.

  • I would then pick it up with two hands. That's it.

  • Yeah, and I would put that on that corner.

  • That's it.

  • Claudia: Like here? Jenny: Yep.

  • Claudia: All right, well, it's holding its shape.

  • I thought it was just going to disintegrate in my hands.

  • Jenny: No, you're doing very well.

  • That's it. And then with that, you,

  • quite forcefully, you can get the water out.

  • That's it.

  • So you're trying to make that leaf stick to the cheese.

  • Claudia: Jenny told me that it's OK

  • to leave little gaps between leaves when nettling.

  • Why? Because the cultures that we added

  • at the very start of the making process

  • will form a natural mold once the cheese ages.

  • Jenny: Can you see the pattern you're forming?

  • Claudia: Yeah.

  • It's not intentional.

  • [both laughing]

  • Jenny: You're doing very well.

  • Claudia: How do you call it? Dragon ...

  • Jenny: Dragon's teeth, I call it.

  • Claudia: Dragon's teeth.

  • Jenny: It's just like that jagged effect.

  • Claudia: This is more like sheep's teeth, to be honest.

  • Jenny: Sheep's teeth! [laughs]

  • Claudia: A Cornish Yarg matures for 21 days.

  • It ages in cold maturing rooms with high humidity.

  • The cold temperature preserves the cheese,

  • but also the nettles,

  • which would decompose very easily in a warm environment.

  • The nettles themselves also help the cheese mature,

  • giving it rigidity and firmness and creating a rind.

  • Catherine: And the perfect rind is firm, but not soft.

  • It's dry, but not too dry. It's not crispy.

  • It's a little bit moist,

  • and then it's got this lovely environment

  • for these white molds to develop.

  • And so every cheese looks like a Christmas tree.

  • Claudia: Oh, yeah. It does.

  • Catherine: So you have one nettle

  • meeting another nettle here.

  • The white candidum mold is in the cheese,

  • so at sort of 20 days

  • it's starting to break through

  • and create this mold that then spreads its way --

  • so this little bit here

  • is where there's a gap in the nettles

  • that the mold can poke through.

  • And then finally, as the cheese matures,

  • as these molds take ahold,

  • that flavor starts permeating down through the cheese.

  • Claudia: Catherine's dairy is the only one in the world

  • that makes this cheese.

  • But the idea that nettle leaves enable cheese to mature

  • is at least 400 years old,

  • from the time when cheese was made at home.

  • Back then, cheeses were placed on beds of nettles

  • to favor the aging.

  • So, we're looking at

  • a little bit of maturing under the rind.

  • You can see that the rind has softened under there.

  • And then you've still got this slightly crumbly core.

  • Claudia: I was expecting the rind to be a bit thicker.