In 75 A.D. the Romans picked a nice spot in what is today southern Wales to build a fort or caer. A few hundred years later Saint Cenydd entrusted the monastery he started there to his son Ffilli, and thus was born the beginnings of the town of Caerphilly.
One of the cheeses we get from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London is named for the town of Caerphilly because that’s where most of the wheels (made in the surrounding countryside) were sold. The delicious Caerphilly cheese we sell in our store today is made at Gorwydd Farm in the town of Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, about two hours northwest. (Yes Little Britain fans, this is the fictional hometown of Dafydd Thomas).
Todd Trethowan started making the cheese on his family’s farm after an apprenticeship with Chris Duckett, who was at that time one of the last farmers making traditional Caerphilly. Trethowan’s Caerphilly is made in the old style of a simple farmhouse cheese. The raw cow’s milk comes from only one farm and Trethowan uses natural animal rennet and ages his cheeses for 3 months. The result is a hearty and uncomplicated cheese with a pale white paste and a lovely lumpy grey rind.
We get a variety of tastes from Gorwydd Caerphilly: earthiness from the rind and a dry leafy background, but the overwhelming flavor is the zippy, yogurty tang. This is a cheese that shines with a hunk of dark bread and a big beer.
We’ve had good luck pairing Caerphilly with a variety of beers from citrusy IPAs to brown ales, but the cheese seems to be at its best with a crisp, yeasty wheat beer. If you ever have some free time at the end of July, head to Caerphilly for their ‘The Big Cheese’ Festival, known in Welsh as ‘Y Caws Mawr’.
Here are a few hints about the Welsh language to aid in pronunciation. A double D is pronounced “th” as in ‘this’. A PH is pronounced like an ‘f’’. The double L is more of a blowing out sound than an actual letter, and ‘r’s are always trilled. Aren’t you glad the cheese is made in Llanddewi Brefi and not in the town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllanty-siliogogogoch?
Julie Cappellano is the General Manager and wine buyer at Formaggio Kitchen South End, Boston.