Sadly, despite sounding like one, ‘Yarg’ isn’t an ancient Cornish word. It is an excellent pasteurised cow’s cheese though.
by John Pope on September 13, 2015
I want it so much to be the utterance of a bejumpered and bearded Cornish pipe smoking fisherman and I’m almost devastated that it isn’t, but anyway…
Everybody knows about all about Cheddar, Stilton, Red Leicester, probably Wensleydale and Double Gloucester, maybe Caerphilly. What a lot of people might not realise though is that Britain actually produces over 700 varieties of named cheese, and some of them are very very good indeed.
Cornish Yarg is one of the more known but still (in my opinion) underpraised British cheeses. It’s produced in Cornwall (fairly obviously) by Lynher Dairies, from pasteurised grass fed cow’s milk, and one of the things that makes it a bit special is the fact that after the curd has been pressed and brined, it is wrapped in steamed wild nettle leaves.
The result is a fresh young citrusy cheese, creamy but light and with a slight herby flavour imparted by the nettle wrapping. It is often described as a cross between a Caerphilly and a mild Cheddar, and while I can see that, it very definitely has a taste that is distinct from either.
It’s also worth mentioning that there is another version of the cheese which replaces the nettle leaves with wild garlic leaves, and the taste that they impart is much stronger than you might expect, but not overpowering, and absolutely yummy.
Old recipes and newer names
The recipe for the cheese apparently dates from the 13th century, had disappeared and then was rediscovered in 1983 by Alan Gray. Mr Gray made some cheese, found that the cheese was good, and gave it a name which was his own surname reversed. There is a contemporary twist though, while the cheese recipe might be centuries old, the nettling that gives the Yarg so much of it’s character is a modern addition.
The recipe and the production have moved between a few different cheesemakers and production locations over the intervening three decades, but are still made in Cornwall, today by Lynher Dairies. The cheese they produce has consistently won awards at domestic levels and more recently international awards as well. Despite the relatively small production, Yarg exports manage to make it as far as Japan, Australia and the USA.
So, whether you have heard of it before or not, it is easy enough to find and is absolutely worth tracking down and trying.
There are so many amazing British cheeses and so little time, please don’t get stuck in a rut with just a chunk of cheddar!