PERHAPS we can call it fromage Oxford with love.
We don’t want to be cheesy, but aristocrat Robert Pouget’s dream of making his Oxford Blue cheese in the county is about to become a reality.
Work is about to begin on his first-ever Oxfordshire production site which means he will be able to expand the size of the business.
French-born baron Mr Pouget, 74, had the idea for a creamy English blue cheese 20 years ago and named it Oxford Blue.
But despite its growing popularity both in Britain and abroad, the city resident has, until now, been forced to make it outside the county, due to a lack of production sites.
Last April he was granted outline planning permission for a production unit at Upton Smokery, outside Burford. The project turned sour briefly when he realised he had nowhere to dispose of the 50,000 litres of waste whey his cheese would produce each month.
But with full planning permission in place, a machine set up called an anaerobic digester that will take the whey, and in the wake of his best production year ever, Mr Pouget says he is ready to take the Oxford Blue brand global.
“The environmental health people have given us the green light and we can now start building work on the new production unit in the next couple of weeks,” he said.
The Oxford Blue
“It’s been a long haul with lots of obstacles, but the end is in sight and Oxford Blue’s potential is huge.”
Not just huge, it seems, as even exclusive resorts want a slice of this stuff. He said: “Last year we sold 53 tonnes of Oxford Blue across Britain and the continent and it was even imported into the Sandy Lane resort in Barbados.
“Once we start making it here, in or own production facility, I’m confident we can multiply that to 250 tonnes a year in the next few years.
“We are always getting requests from around the world but until now we just could not make enough. Once we are settled at Upton Smokery, we can also start looking at how we can prolong the cheese’s shelf-life, so we can export more to the United States. 2014 is going to be a very exciting year.”
Mr Pouget owns Oxford Fine Foods and currently produces about four tonnes of Oxford Blue each month, exporting a tonne to America and Germany.
He said: “We won’t just be making cheese at Upton Smokery. We will create one new building and convert two existing buildings to become a centre of food excellence, housing cheese, fish, high quality prepared meals and game.
“People will spend time here, getting involved in making their food, as well as tasting and buying it.
“We start digging next week and we will make Oxford Blue in Oxfordshire as soon as we can.”
It tastes soft and creamy, like St agur
OXFORD Blue is a soft, creamy blue, similar to the famous St Agur or Dolcelatte, but without the strength of Stilton or Roquefort.
Robert Pouget developed the recipe for Oxford Blue in Stilton Country at the Hartington creamery in Derbyshire.
Currently made in Lancashire, at around four weeks old the cheese is brought to Mr Pouget’s storage facility at Worminghall, just outside Oxford, where maturing lasts for six weeks.
While other domestic blues including Lymeswold (nicknamed slimeswold) have failed, Oxford Blue has grown in popularity, and regularly features on the menus of Oxford University dinners and the city’s restaurants.