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Say cheese!

PUBLISHED: 09:00 27 April 2014

Diane Keen of Keens

Diane Keen of Keens

Archant

With the help of the British Cheese Board, Clare Bourke looks at some of the county's cheese producers and discovers why this humble food will always be a firm favourite in Somerset

Did you know…?

•There are more than 700 named cheeses made in the UK

•It takes 10 litres of milk to make 1kg of cheese. It can be made from all sorts of milk – not only cows’ milk but also sheep, goat, buffalo and yak milks

•Cheddar is the UKs favourite cheese, accounting for 55% of household purchases; the second is Mozzarella, most of which is made in the UK

•Coloured cheeses, such as Red Leicester and Double Gloucester, get their red colouring from Annatto, a flavourless vegetable extract from the seed of a South American tree

•Cheddar is named after the Cheddar Gorge caves in Somerset where the cheese used to be stored to ripen. It even gained the Royal seal of approval when King Henry II declared Cheddar cheese to be the best in Britain

In the UK, we consume annually 700,000 tonnes of cheese - around 30g each per day. It comes in many forms, from hard cheese that’s perfect for grating to cottage cheese to grace a humble salad, and in Somerset there is a long history charting our love of cheeses of all types and tastes.

If you want to join the growing number of people ‘buying local’, there are plenty of places in Somerset where you can do just that.

Nigel White, Secretary of the British Cheese Board, says, ‘We never recommend people should buy locally made cheese just because it is local. What we do suggest is that you try it and hopefully you will be sufficiently pleased that you will go on buying it and trying all of the other cheeses being made in your local area.

‘Regardless of where you go in the UK, the odds are pretty good that you will find cheeses that you have not heard of or tried before. So there is a journey of discovery for everyone to experience and in the case of your local cheeses a chance to meet the people who make and sell them in your local markets.’

Wyke FarmsWyke Farms

Meet the producers

Diane Keen,

Lubborn's Somerset BrieLubborn's Somerset Brie

Keen’s Cheddar,

Wincanton

How long have you been producing cheeses?

The family have been making cheese at Moorhayes since 1899, well, that’s as far back as records go; the family were probably making and selling long before then.

What makes your product stand out from others?

Our product stands out because of its authenticity, the traditional methods that we use keep it a good old fashioned cheese, the cheese is all made by eye and by hand by a skilled cheese maker, no buttons and fancy gizmos involved. Also, there are not many cheese makers who can boast that they use their own raw milk from their own herd at their own premises, and that the cheese is both made and matured on the farm as well.

Which is your best-selling cheese?

We only make the one cheese, a traditional unpasteurised cheddar. We can sell it both as a mature and extra mature depending on personal tastes. Personally for me I liked it younger, but there are family members who disagree and that is a debate that will rage on as long as Keen’s are in business!

How important is it for communities to support local suppliers/producers?

There are a whole host of reasons communities need to support local producers, and there is a reason for every type of shopper there is. If you shop with the environment in mind, consider the road or even air miles of your purchase. If you shop with your health in mind consider that your food will not be stuffed with artificial preservatives and additives if purchased from artisan producers. If you shop with your community in mind consider all the local jobs and local services that are utilised by local producers. If you shop with a tight budget then consider the quality that a local producer can provide over a flavourless food type substance on offer elsewhere, spending just a few extra pennies on something extra special from time to time will reintroduce you to the pleasure that can be derived from food.

Rich Clothier, Managing Director,

Wyke Farms,

Bruton

How long have you been producing cheeses?

Wyke Farms is a family run company based in the heart of the Somerset cheddar making region. The art of traditional cheese making will never be lost on the farm where the Clothier family have been making cheddar for over 150 years. Today Wyke Farms is the largest independent cheese maker in the UK producing over 14,000 tonnes of cheddar per year to the same award-winning 150-year-old-recipe.

What makes your product stand out from others?

Wyke remains a truly traditional family business. Ivy Clothier developed the cheese making recipe into what it is today and now her son John and grandsons Rich, Tom, David and Roger run the business with the same passion for cheese making where flavour, texture and taste are paramount. We believe that this attention to detail is the reason our cheese has won more awards at national cheese shows than any other. Wyke Farms cheddar is made on the farm in Somerset from cows grazing on lush Somerset pasture all within a 35-mile radius.

Which is your best-selling cheese?

The best-selling product in our range is the ‘Just Delicious’ Extra Mature that is matured for a minimum of 12 months and selected for its full and rounded flavour. My personal favourite is our special edition ‘Ivy’s Vintage Reserve’ Cheddar produced in honour of my Grandmother and matriarch Ivy Clothier and which is meticulously graded throughout its maturation period. It is everything a good Cheddar should be and has been nurtured for a minimum of 15 months to produce a complexity of flavours to tantalise the taste buds.

How important is it for communities to support local suppliers/producers?

Wyke Farms has been part of the local community and economy for over 150 years. Today Wyke employs 200 people directly and around 2,000 indirectly, and buys milk from 110 local farms as well as taking in milk from our own farms. Shoppers are today looking for regional products with a short supply chain. Buying local is is great way to support the local economy, making Somerset a destination county famous for food and drink.

David Gray, Factory Manager,

Lubborn Creamery,

Cricket St Thomas, Chard

How long have you been producing cheeses?

We have been producing cheese in Somerset for 31 years, we started in the old Brewery in Crewkerne in 1982 and moved to the current site at Cricket St Thomas at the turn of the century. Originally we were started by one entrepreneur Piers Fielden, then became part of a farmers Co-op before being acquired by Lactalis, a large family owned dairy company in 2009.

What makes your product stand out from others?

We make a traditional ripening white mould cheese, which uses the mould to ripen the cheese from the outside inwards. The cheese has a core which gradually disappears as it ripens. Our team of cheese makers use the process of ripening for a fuller flavour and a creamy texture. Soft cheese “ripens”, hard cheese “matures”.

Which is your best-selling cheese?

Our best-selling cheese is Somerset brie which is creamy with a mild, fresh flavour and a soft edible white rind. Our Somerset brie is an award-winning British soft cheese that helps consumers offer a point of difference to cheeseboards and recipes. My personal favourite is our Capricorn Somerset Goats Cheese, which is the number one goats cheese in the UK and has a delicate velvety soft white coat. When young it is mild and crumbly and has a slightly nutty flavour. As it ripens from the outside towards the centre, the white curd becomes softer and creamier, and develops a fuller flavour. The cheese is enjoyed at different stages of maturity, younger and firmer cheese is particularly good for crumbling into salads and for grilling.

How important is it for communities to support local suppliers/producers?

We source all our milk locally and wherever possible other goods and services to support the local economy.

Some British cheeses have a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). West Country Farmhouse Cheddar can only be produced in the West Country (Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Cornwall) while Stilton can only be produced in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire.

Top 10 British cheeses

• Cheddar

• Mozzarella

• Cottage Cheese

• Red Leicester

• Double Gloucester

• Blue Stilton

• Wensleydale

• Cheshire

• Lancashire

• British Brie and British Camembert

Let’s be mature about it

The West Country is most famous for its Farmhouse Cheddar, a mature Cheddar. But what constitutes ‘mature’?

There is no legal definition of mature Cheddar. However, it is generally taken to mean cheese that has been kept for around nine months and exhibits distinct flavours over and above those associated with mild or medium Cheddar. Mild and medium Cheddar are generally described as having gentle flavours with a creamy background. As they age towards nine months or beyond the distinctive flavours develop - be they sharp/tangy, farmy, sweet/nutty or savoury/meaty - or indeed a combination of these flavours.

About the British Cheese Board:

The British Cheese Board (BCB) is a promotional and educational body for cheese and aims to increase awareness of cheese in the UK, and cheese made by its members in particular, as part of a healthy, balanced diet. You can download apps on recipe planning and cheese flavours at britishcheese.com



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