Baron hopes Oxford Blue cheese change will not be in vein

Witney Gazette: Harley Pouget with some maturing Oxford Blue Buy this photo » Harley Pouget with some maturing Oxford Blue

OXFORD Blue cheese is to be made here in the county for the first time.

And its creator, a French-born baron, believes it could one day rival Stilton.

Almost 20 years after coming up with the idea for a soft and creamy English blue cheese, Robert Pouget – who prefers not to use his full title of Robert Pouget de Saint Victor – has at last been given the go-ahead to make Oxford Blue in the county of its name.

Mr Pouget, 74, said: “It’s thrilling news. After many years of looking for a suitable premises in the county and going backwards and forwards with planners, we have been granted permission to make Oxford Blue in a converted barn in Upton, just outside Burford.

“Production should start by the end of 2013 and Oxford Blue will not only be made here, but will hopefully also be made using local milk.”

Mr Pouget, from Oxford, came up with the idea for Oxford Blue in 1995.

He wanted a soft, creamy blue, similar to the famous St Agur or Dolcelatte, but without the strength of Stilton or Roquefort.

It was a brave move – other domestic ‘blues’ including Lymeswold (nicknamed slimeswold) had failed.

But the painter-turned-cheesemaker had already opened the Oxford Cheese Company shop and was enjoying selling quality cheese to the city’s restaurants and colleges.

He said he headed straight for Stilton country and developed a recipe for Oxford Blue with the Hartington creamery in Derbyshire.

Mr Pouget added: “Oxford Blue was made there until about three years ago when we swapped production to Carmarthenshire in Wales.

“But it has always been my dream to make it here in Oxfordshire.

“Currently, at around four weeks old the cheese is brought to our storage facility at Worminghall, just outside Oxford, where ‘affinage’ [maturing] takes place for a further six weeks.

“This is the real ‘secret’ to Oxford Blue’s success.

“That, along with the right salt content, is what has made Oxford Blue so soft, clean and popular.”

He produces five tonnes a month – one tonne of which is exported to the US, France and Germany.

He said: “I believe Oxford Blue could be as famous as Stilton.

“It’s popular amongst the university dons – it was even praised by Andrew Lloyd Webber in a food review, and its name as a brand has international appeal.

“It makes me very proud to open a menu at any of the county’s great restaurants and see Oxford Blue on the menu.”

His son Harley Pouget, 47, who works alongside his father at East Oxford-based Oxford Fine Foods, said: “There was a niche in the market for an English blue cheese and Oxford Blue has certainly filled it. We are very excited at the prospect of being able to make it here.”

Juliet Harbutt, from Churchill, one of the world’s leading authorities and authors on cheese, said: “It’s good to hear that Oxford Blue will be made here, as there are very few local cheeses.”

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