Selling cheese, made by small, artisan producers, who work with great skill, dedication and enthusiasm, has always been both a privilege and a pleasure. Now it feels like a responsibility too.
Fresh off the heels of International Women’s day, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate the enormous contribution made to our industry by talented women. Our founder, Ann-Marie Dyas, was one such woman, whose enduring legacy is one of championing traditional, artisan cheesemaking. That is, cheeses that are made by hand. Cheeses made by small and independent producers. Producers who labour for the love of their craft, and not to mass-produce something that might net more profit. The result is something of quality, cheese that has depth and complexity and that is a far more rewarding experience on the cheeseboard, in terms of both flavour and texture. We think that is something worth celebrating.
It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Mary Holbrook, the maker of the incomparable Tymsboro cheese, who passed away at the weekend.
She died at home on Sunday, at her beautiful farm on the hill, in Somerset, where she has worked tirelessly over decades to establish and maintain her world-class reputation.
Mary has had an impact on a staggering amount of people in the artisan cheese industry in the UK and beyond. She welcomed trainees, visitors and transient workers to come to Sleight farm and learn, work and contribute to the cheese making and the farm; people from customers like ourselves, other cheesemakers and the wider food community. Never shy to let people see her process and learn from her techniques, safe in the knowledge that no-one could recreate the exceptional terroir of her Somerset hilltop. Our Technical Manager, Martin, had the privilege to work for Mary for two years and learned a huge amount from her. He says "The way she made cheese was unique
Marcus Fergusson and his cheese, the aptly named 'Renegade Monk'
James and George Keen
‘I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.’
Cheesemakers obsess over the smallest of details, in order to perfect that taste they are seeking. Over the years, a cheesemaker will build up a laundry list of tips and make-notes.
This Father’s day, we took a moment to celebrate a few of the father-son teams in artisan cheesemaking. In many cases, traditional cheeses have stayed within one family for generations, allowing the knowledge, the cheese and the ‘little scraps of wisdom’ to stay on the same farm as one cheesemaker passes the torch to another. Whether they are perfecting existing recipes, or laying the groundwork for the creation of breathtaking new cheeses, fans of cheese everywhere owe a lot to these father and son teams.
George and James Keen are
Women have long held a place at the heart of traditional cheesemaking. In the very early days of British cheese, monasteries were important centres of production. With their dissolution by Henry VIII in 1560, recipes often passed to the local farmers' wives, broadening the styles of cheese to be found on British farms.
There is a long tradition of the women of the family taking control of the dairy, and making butter and cheese both to feed their family and to take to market. Women cheesemakers have played a key role in the resurgence of artisan British cheese and have inspired a new generation of women to take up this noble profession.
In homage to these wonderful women, we have created a selection called Sisters in Cheese, which celebrates the accomplishments of four great women cheesemakers who have revived lost cheeses or created new classics.
Do cheeses have a gender?
This month heralds the start of Organic September and an opportunity to discuss the values of organic food. Organic stands for environmental sustainability, a lack of herbicides or artificial fertilisers, and animal welfare.
Organic September is a great opportunity to chat with two shining lights of organic dairy farming, about why they feel it is so important to the future of food production.
Patrick Holden, CEO of the Sustainable Food Trust and founding chairman of the British Organic Farmers movement in 1982, is a man whose farming techniques have helped make Hafod the cheese it is today. He feels conventional farming methods in the UK are not sustainable.
“The present predominant food system, using chemical fertilisers, pesticides and monoculture, is trashing the planet”, he said. “It’s eroding the soil capital. It’s causing damage to public health.”
Patrick speaks from experi
As we approached the village of Colston Bassett, the clouds parted and fields of vivid green grasses were bathed in sunshine. It was such a welcome sight from what was an otherwise grey and dreary journey to Nottinghamshire.
We entered the creamery though the Dairy shop, which proudly displayed two products; Colston Bassett Stilton and Colston Bassett Shropshire Blue. Such simplicity is truly admirable, and the continuous stream of locals through the door is a testimony to the quality of this classic cheese.
Billy Kevan gave us a potted history of the dairy, naming the five Head cheese-makers who have been at the helm since the co-operative was created 104 years ago. The proud tone he used when explaining his part in the dairy’s continuing story was rather humbling. Is it the quality of the cheese which retains staff long periods? Or is it the solid body of knowledge, handed down from one chee
Wine and cheese enjoy a harmonious relationship on our dinner tables. For every cheese, there is always a complementary wine that makes for the perfect pairing. The bond between these two does not end there, though. There are countless parallels in the way cheese and wine are produced too.
When making wine, for instance, the soil type can influence the minerals that are absorbed by vines, which affects the grapes and then, as a result, the taste of the wine. Soil has a bearing on cheese as well. The grass where a dairy herd feeds can differ depending on the soil. It’s these subtle differences that contribute to a cheese’s character.
During a recent visit to Ram Hall Farm, where Berkswell cheese is made, we learned from Stephen Fletcher, who manages the farm and dairy operation, that his ewes had shown a preference to a certain type of soil.
From partners to suppliers, we’re proud of each and every company we work with. We love to shout about the unbelievable quality of these artisan businesses at every opportunity, but that’s us and we’d understand if you thought we might stray a little towards bias.
However, that’s why we feel our passion for these food makers and their products is justified when others show a similar level of excitement towards them, as has been the case recently with a couple of fascinating podcast interviews.
August was a great month for our suppliers, Van Nahmen and White Lake Cheese, as these artisan food producers became radio personalities in two very different podcasts that were broadcast on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.
We were exceptionally proud of Van Nahmen, when this producer of nectars and juices was interviewed by Markus Hippi on Monocle’s The Menu, an audio show that’s a guide to food, drink and enterta
Stärnächäs, from Swiss affineur Walo von Mühlenen and cheesemaker Marcel Gabriel, won the prestigious Bradbury’s Trophy, also known as Supreme Champion Continental International Cheese, at the International Cheese Awards 2016 in Nantwich.
The Swiss cheese, which we sell exclusively in the UK, rounded out the ceremony by successfully picking up the Interprofession du Gruyère Award for Best Swiss Cheese as well.
Produced at the foot of the Säntis mountain near Appenze