I never expected to be impressed by Caerphilly. I had tasted examples of this cheese before and its straightforward, dry, citrus-like flavor was good, if not uninspiring. Then I tasted Gorwydd Caerphilly and everything was illuminated. This is what Caerphillly should taste like! Throw out the generic, rindless stuff that doesn’t even come from Wales, the country that made Caerphilly famous. In fact, until recently, most Caerphillly came from Somerset, England as a result of a situation brought about by competition from other countries at the turn of the century, and continued due to production restrictions made during World War II.
Just like when I first tried English cheddar and saw the complexities that can be reached in such a workmanlike cheese, Gorwydd Caerphillly elevates a Welsh miner’s cheese to new heights, or at least to ones that haven’t been seen about a 100 years. The center is dense, crumbly and milky, with a suggestion of lemon zest. Towards the natural rind, in a section called the “breakdown”, things change. The cheese becomes creamy and definitely funky. Flavors of mushrooms and other earthy, meaty notes prevail. The rind is natural and, therefore, edible, but I found its taste a little too much like what I imagine moss would taste.
Trethowan's Dairy, the makers of Gorwydd Caerphilly, is a family run business. It was started in 1996 by Todd Trethowan, who wanted to continue the traditions of his Grandmother, who worked in the English dairies during the 1930’s. His intention is to bring traditional Caerphilly cheesemaking practices back to Wales. With help from his family, this former Neal’s Yard employee has been doing just that, involving a minimal amount of mechanization and doing all they can by hand.
Though traditionally part of the Welsh miner’s lunch, served with very simple accompaniments or on it’s own, I think this Caerphilly is a versatile cheese where flourishes are not only easy, but encouraged! Wine pairings are numerous, though I’d personally reach for an equally dry and citrusy Gewürztraminer. One site I found suggested pairing the cheese with something sweet like apples, but I’d alter that slighty and suggest items with a more molasses-twinged sweetness. The idea of honey cake made with buckwheat honey particularly comes to mind.
A list of where to buy Gorwydd Caerphilly is available on their website, though it is not completely accurate, since it does not list the Whole Foods Bowery location, where their Fromagerie has it for $22.99/lb. Also in New York,Artisanal carries it at $29.00/lb. The website lists Murray’s Cheese as a source, although, at least during the time I worked there, availability was very spotty. The best bet is to call your nearby store for availability.