If you were to think of Spain, Manchego would likely be the cheese which immediately sprang to mind. It belongs to a very exclusive club. Along with Brie and Cheddar, Gorgonzola and Gruyère, it has become the poster child for an entire nation’s cheesemaking prowess.
This is not without good cause. A truly great Manchego manages to be many things at once. In my experience, most things in life which are capable of being more than one thing at a time, are a little on the naff side. Old news, plastic glasses, sporks and long shorts are just a few which spring to mind.
Yet a truly good Manchego bucks this trend, as it manages to have a host of seemingly contradictory attributes. It will be firm but silky soft, sweet but savoury, crumbly but creamy and yet the experience will be entirely satisfying.
For reasons we will save for another blog post, there was a time when finding a traditional, artisanal Manchego was exceptionally difficult. It became a phantom; an elusive, ha
I’ll share a secret with you. I used to think picnics were overrated.
I know… I know... It’s an unusual and unlikely opinion to hold, especially at this time of year. The popularity of the picnic puzzled me. If you can't imagine this, well, bear with me…you might be able to relate more than you first thought.
Picture the scene. It’s your first picnic of the summer; the anticipation is high, the journey is long and the hamper is heavy.
After a long drive, you find the ideal spot to settle down, but it turns out… everyone else has had the same idea. Worse still – someone tipped off every insect in the area, both land and airborne divisions, which come out in force and eagerly swarm around your blanket.
As you rummage your way through your groaning hamper, searching between the now squashed finger food and the leaking thermos flask, the good time you were looking for slinks away into the bushe
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
Sponsors of the 2018 British Cheese Awards: The Fine Cheese Co.
The 25th annual event was a special night for all concerned, and, as sponsors of the awards, it was all the more poignant for us, for a number of reasons.
The awards night, which was held
We adore Duckett’s Caerphilly. Being but a short drive away, we recently visited Tom Calver of Westcombe Dairy to see how it is made, and to learn a little of its incredible story.
Duckett’s Caerphilly is a traditional territorial cheese and is one of but a handful of Caerphilly that are made with raw milk. During spring and summer, its taste enters a peak period and has a wonderful fresh taste with bright, fresh flavours of citrus, offset by savoury notes. It has a crumbliness in the centre and becomes softer near the rind. We love to have it crumbled over salads or anything with pea shoots as it is so light and delicious.
Tom Calver was taught the recipe personally by Chris Duckett when Chris moved production of his farmhouse Caerphilly from Wedmore to Evercreech. Being so passionate about raw milk, Tom persuaded Chris to revert the recipe back to an older version first used by Chris’ mum. Tom pushes the envelope in artisan chees
What a weekend it was at the 2018 Artisan Cheese Awards. We were the sponsors of the event so we spent some time in Melton Mowbray celebrating the best that the British Isles have to offer the world of fine cheese. As ever, there were triumphs and trophies galore. It is always rewarding to see the number of cheesemakers we work with come home with some gold. It is a fitting testament to the hard work they put in making the Artisan cheese market on our shores such a dynamic and vibrant one.
Here are a few of our highlights. There are of course, far too many to mention them all, but that is a small price to pay for working with the best of the best.
Best in Class:
Imagine if you discovered, quite by chance, a forest at the end of your garden.
Certain it had never been there before, you proceed to venture into this wild and unexplored territory, whereupon you encounter sights, tastes and smells that were strange and delightful to your senses.
Reeling from your discovery, you rush to tell your friends and family about it, but to your astonishment you are met with incredulity, or, even worse – declarations that you shouldn’t or couldn’t go to this mysterious new place.
You suddenly begin to doubt the validity of your new discovery. Everyone you know seems to be against it, without really knowing why. Apart from one knowledgeable friend, who tells you that the forest is not new. It has always been there, is every bit as good as you thought it was and it is the natural way things are meant to be.
This, dear reader, is something like what faces the fan of artisan cheese in today’s world. On Saturday April 21
International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of women in all walks of life, but as cheese is our business, we got to thinking about the women who have influenced us and from whom we draw inspiration. Well, one name stood out above all others, that of our founder, Ann-Marie Dyas.
For 30 years, Ann-Marie Dyas held a place at the heart of the artisan cheese industry.
In the 1980s, she left behind a successful career in advertising and marketing, to open a cheese shop in Bath. The west country was the ideal place for a cheese shop as there were a clutch of fine, artisan cheesemakers nearby. The climate and pasture of our patch of England is just perfect for dairy cows, and Cheddar was not far down the road.
Cheddar had long since become a commodity cheese, mass produced and sold in uninspiring blocks, but not far away, Jamie Montgomery and the
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?
The French have La Chandeleur and the Americans, well, they like pancakes most days. In the UK, however, we celebrate those flat, circles of joy each year on a specific day in February for Pancake Day.
It might be the tradition for lemon and sugar on your Pancake Day pancakes, but we like to make things a little more cheesey at The Fine Cheese Co. So, with the help of our Cheese Care & Quality Manager, Ruth, we’ve come up with some suggestions for several, delightful cheese fillings.
1. Kirkham’s Lancashire & The Fine Cheese Co. Peach Chutney for Cheese
Immediately after you’ve flipped your pancake for the first time in a pan over the hob, crumble a generous amount of the wonderfully moist, Kirkham’s Lancashire on top. It is perfect for pancakes
From platters to Stilton pots, our charming ceramic range was developed with the illustrator, John Broadley, because we believe that lovingly crafted cheeses deserve to be honoured with a beautiful presentation.
A new Ceramic Butter Dish was recently added to the blue and white line-up, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to speak with John about how the range started and how it has evolved over the years.
“The original design I made, in collaboration with Julian Roberts’ Irving & Co, was the stilton pot,” he said. “Ann-Marie had a desire for something which captured the feel of old blue-and-white ceramics and also bucolic English countryside scenes.”
“When it came to subsequent designs, it felt right to carry on the same approach; t