Hugh and Pippa Stables run Wandering Ewe Dairy in North Somerset. They produce a hard, unpasteurised, ewes’ milk cheese from their own flock of sheep. 2021 was their third year of commercial cheese production. This is the third of 12 monthly blogs, which are intended to give a flavour of the year.
The shortest day is past. The rams have finished their work now, and will resume their normal activity of just lolling around. Our best estimates suggest that we have enough stockpiled pasture to see us through to spring. There is long list of winter work to cram into the 4 months before lambing starts in April. But as the season turns, it is also a time for taking one last look back.
We are very lucky that the geographical barrier of the river Avon means that our small farm and dairy is just a few miles from the centre of Bristol. 2021 brought some really interesting visitors in search of fresh sheeps’ milk.
Giovani remembered making pecorino with grandmother on their farm in Tuscany – both for sale and consumption. He wanted to make some himself. His daughter contacted me, and they came to visit. Pecorino is well known to us now. What is less well known is that Pecorino Romano was both a delicacy in ancient Rome, and a staple for the roman legions. Apparently there is a tradition that Roman families eat pecorino with fresh fava beans on the first of May.
I bumped into Raquel on the track leading up to our dairy, picking blackberries with her daughter. She asked me if I knew where the sheep dairy was. She wanted to make mamia for her Basque husband, and very kindly returned with a delicious sample for me. Mamia is sheeps’ milk, curdled with rennet. It can be eaten with honey and almonds, as a dessert. It would have traditionally been made on an open fire in a Basque farmhouse / barn (baserri), which would have given it a slight smoky flavour.
Omar wanted to make nablusi to an old recipe for his Palestinian cafe. Nablus is a city on the West Bank. Nablusi is a white salted halloumi-like cheese. It is traditionally flavoured with with two middle eastern spices – mahlab and mastic. The heavily salted version can be kept up to a year. But it can also be made fresher. It can be eaten fresh, fried or cooked into savoury and sweet pastries and desserts.
It was an absolute joy to connect with this rich history of sheep dairying. We will be making them all next summer when milk is plentiful. Can’t wait.
Text and Images (C) Hugh & Pippa Stables @wandering.ewe
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