A "cheese for grown ups", Renegade Monk is bold and pungent with a pleasant sweetness. One of Britain's newest artisan cheeses, it can vary in consistency and texture from soft with a pale rind scattered with blue, to firmer and darker in appearance.
- Pasteurised cow's milk
- Vegetarian rennet
What's special about Renegade Monk?Renegade Monk is made by husband-and-wife team Marcus Fergusson and Penelope Nagle on their twenty-two acre smallholding, Feltham Farm, near Wincanton in Somerset. Passionate about cheese since childhood, Marcus began making Renegade Monk in 2016 after the family moved out of London. He attended a course at River Cottage to learn about cheese making and then developed his unique hybrid recipe for Renegade Monk, inspired by holidays in France enjoying the iconic washed rind cheeses Epoisses and Langres.
Washed rind cheeses are the funky cousins of the cheese world. They can be spotted by their orange or salmon pink colour. These rinds are typically thick and aromatic although their aroma is often more assertive than their flavour. During maturation, these cheeses are washed regularly (once or twice a week) in brine, alcohol or both. This creates a damp environment on the surface of the cheese where desired moulds, notably brevibacterium linens can thrive. Unlike the white moulds of a brie-style rind, these bacteria enjoy humidity and higher levels of salt and ammonia. They are distinctive in colour (orangey-red) and produce sulphur compounds as they thrive. Washed rinds are edible but may be rather salty.
For the production of Renegade Monk, organic milk is sourced from a local herd of cows at Bruton Organic Dairy. Feltham Farm itself is not certified organic but is run on organic principles, as well as aiming to be self-sufficient and sustainable. The farm is home to chickens, geese, sheep and also rare breed pigs that happily eat the 300 litres of whey produced weekly in the cheese room.
Renegade Monk is extremely labour intensive to produce. It is made in small batches totally around two hundred cheeses each week. Blue cultures are added to the pasteurised milk, then the set curds are hand turned, salted and pierced. The cheeses are bathed in ale whilst being refrigerated and matured for four weeks. Marcus uses a bespoke tool sourced from Germany to pierce the fragile young cheeses however their soft, wet texture means the air holes quickly reseal and the interior of the cheeses remains veinless when ripe. The Penicillium Roqueforti cultures simply add a very subtle blue undertone to the flavour of a finished Renegade Monk.
The ale used to wash Renegade Monk is "Funky Monkey" a pale ale from Milk Street Brewery in nearby Frome. This fruity ale with hints of citrus gives the cheese depth of flavour and a hint of sweetness. Washing cheese in ale is a traditional technique originating from the Franciscan monasteries of France and Belgium in the Middle Ages where the monks were cheese makers as well as brewers and distillers. They found washing cheese in alcohol not only preserved it but gave the cheese a more pungent, complex taste and a creamier, softer consistency than washing in brine.
The name Renegade Monk pays homage to the monastic history of ale-washing cheese. It also nods to the hybrid nature of its recipe - the unique combination of soft texture, blue cultures and its ale washed rind is not one traditionally found in the Britain. Since it was first made in 2016, Renegade Monk has won a number of prestigious awards including two stars in the Great Taste Awards and silver medals at the 2019 Artisan Cheese Awards, the 2019 British Cheese Awards and last but not least last year's World Cheese Awards.