WIGAN’S mining industry might be a dim but proud memory these days.
But the old black stuff can still be found - albeit in less familiar guises.
None more unusual than in what is being offered up at a newly-opened delicatessen in Standish.
And Jenny Wren’s charcoal cheddar has far more than curiosity value: it has consistently been their biggest seller since launch day in August.
Former midwife turned butcher Jayne Seymour and one-time mechanic partner Paul Ryan set out with the aim of filling local culinary niches when they opened up in Colin de Rouffignac’s old antiques shop on Almond Brook Road.
And so there are less familiar fruit and veg, a big accent on organic, special breads, gluten and dairy-free and all manner of other tasty treats with expansion plans in the pipeline. The couple like to label it all “fine foodder.”
But there is no question what gets customers’ tongues wagging and salivating more than any other.
Jayne said: “We were at a farm food show in Harrogate earlier this year and saw this new cheese that had been brought out to mark the anniversary of the miners’ strike.
“It was pitch black and contained charcoal. The taste was exceptional and we just knew we had to have some, what with setting up a shop in Wigan with its mining past.
“And it is certainly a big talking point. Some people react adversely to it and we make light of it, saying it might look a little odd on a baked potato or as a component in cheese on toast.
“But it really looks good on a cheese board and has been our top selling product since it opened.
“People have asked how you can eat charcoal but it is harmless. They only use small quantities and it has been sterilised. I know pregnant women have unusual cravings, including for charcoal so what better way to eat it?”
The shop sells the cheese in little hessian bags, and in so doing doffs it cap to coal sacks too.
Amy Birkin from Michael Lee Fine Cheeses (the creators of charcoal cheese), said: “We toyed with the idea of making a black cheese and how we could make this look appealing.” And when they came to know of the various mining communities around them that needed support, they found their “black ingredient.”
The company then created what it claims is the first and only all-black charcoal cheddar cheese, made with mature cheddar and blended with activated charcoal. For their outstanding innovation, Michael Lee Fine Cheeses were awarded the Best New Idea award at the Farm Shop and Deli show, 2014.