CLICK ON IMAGE FOR FULL NEWSLETTERTrethowans Dairy newsletter autumn 2013
Todd Trethowan became interested in making cheese after a stint working behind the counter at Neal’s Yard Dairy back in the eighties. During this time he met lots of cheese-makers and began working for a Welsh cheddar maker called Dougal Campbell, to support himself through his archaeology degree. His passion for cheese making grew and he went to work with other producers, most notably the late Chris Duckett, in Somerset.
Chris was a third generation Caerphilly maker and by the 1990′s one of the only people making Caerphilly in a traditional way, by hand and on the farm. Todd lived in a draughty old caravan in Chris’s farmyard for 6 months, while Chris passed on his recipe and everything he himself had learnt from his mother and grandmother about making Caerphilly. Todd returned to the family farm in Wales and set up a small dairy in the former cow sheds and began to make cheese on a very small scale, just as his own grandmother had done as a farm servant near the town of Caerphilly. When Todd started out, he made four 4kg wheels a day, now a team of 5 make forty five 4kg wheels a day with 1,500 litres of milk.
“My first day in my own dairy was the 29th June 1996. It was hot outside. I felt nervous. The most surprising thing was releasing the press the next morning and knocking four Christmas cake-sized cheeses out of their moulds. They looked like cheeses! They smelt sweet, a little sharp, lactic and fresh. I was staggered that after just one day, I’d managed to a make a few cheeses that looked like they were supposed to look.”
Gorwydd Caerphilly took off, and began to be sold at Specialist cheese shops and deli counters around the country. As the business grew, Todd’s brother Maugan joined and they began to look for more staff. They were joined by New Zealand cheese maker and monger Kim, who soon became very much part of the business and then the family, when she and Maugan got married.
Gorwydd Caerphilly started out being made with vegetarian rennet and with Freisian-Holstein milk from a few neighbouring farms. As Todd and Maugan worked on the recipe, they soon changed to single farm milk (which gave them more control over the cheese) and traditional rennet (giving a creamier texture and a fuller flavour). Changes like these required a slow, scientific approach, patience, obsessive record keeping and the discipline to make only one change (among limitless combinations) at a time. Furthermore, they had to wait weeks to find out what those first cheeses would be like, and whether each small change would indeed improve the recipe.
One thing that has never changed is the handmade nature of the cheese. Maugan says, “We always use our hands, if we used the mechanical stirrers or had a closed vat, we wouldn’t feel the difference in the milk and the cheese from one month to the next. In autumn and winter when the cows are eating silage, grains and hay, the milk develops different characteristics to summer or spring milk. Its high butter fat content at this time of year makes the curd feel silky in your hands. During the spring, animals are eating young grasses and flowers, which produce floral and grassy characteristics in the cheese. In the summer, the grasses are full of beta-carotene, which affects both the flavour and colour of milk.”
After fourteen years making cheese Todd and Maugan still wax lyrical about why they do it: “We’ve always believed in just doing one thing well. This is why we’ve only ever made one cheese, and continue to be as obsessive about attention to detail as on the very first day.”
Todd says that his example of a perfect Gorwydd would be a cheese with a clean taste, a good breakdown and a long flavour. He likes to eat it with the rind for full effect. The rind gives a wonderful mushroomy flavour, the breakdown has a lovely creaminess to it and the inner ‘core’ is lemony, fresh and crumbly.
Gorwydd is best eaten simply, with apple, pears or fresh walnuts. It’s great in salads, and Mark Hix has a very nice summery salad recipe with shaved fennel, asparagus and Gorwydd Caerphilly.It is also great to cook with and melts very well.
Gorwydd pairs well with a number of white wines, and Fiona Beckett, the Guardian Wine writer suggests the following:
Gorwydd has won its share of awards at the British and World Cheese Awards, including Best Welsh Cheese, Best Traditional Caerphilly, Best British Cheese and Best Territorial Cheese.
After all these years of making only one cheese, we can honestly say, all the family still love eating Gorwydd Caerphilly – and along with a handful of other favorites, it would always be our cheese of choice whether for an everyday family lunch, a picnic or for an after dinner cheeseboard.
Other people seem to like it too…
“One of the great cheeses of the world.” Nigel Slater
“The first earthy, buttery bite amazed me. This was like no caerphilly I’d ever encountered. I gave in to gluttony and the whole piece had gone long before I got home.” Bee Wilson
“Utterly addictive” Diana Henry
British Cheese Week got off to a great start for us with a Gold medal in the Traditional Caerphilly category at the British Cheese Awards. Maugan, Kim and the small team at the Farm work so hard to make and mature Gorwydd with every bit as much love and attention to detail as they did on day one, and it is really cheering when it is recognised as outstanding by judges at a competition such as this.
I think we’ll be sending out Gold medal stickers to wholesale customers so if you sell our cheese, please do display a sticker and tell your customers – and if you simply like eating our cheese, then please tell yourself and your friends, family and local cheese shop/deli!
September got off to a cracking start generally when Wallace and Grommit’s Cheese Challenge van rocked up to the farm to collect a Gorwydd for The Grand Cheese Auction.
The Grand Cheese Challenge is part of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal and is in support of the undertaking of a small fundraising team from Bristol, whose aim is to collect 30 cheeses in 30 days driving the length and breadth of the UK & Europe, in support of The Cancer and Bone Marrow Transplant Service at Bristol Children’s Hospital.
“Inspired by Wallace & Gromit’s love of cheese, The Grand Cheese Challenge team will be setting out in September to collect our cheeses. By actually driving to each cheesemaker and collecting the cheeses we hope to gain a better understanding of the processes, care and dare I say it, love, that goes into the making of these superb cheeses… With at least 30 quality cheeses, our auction is sure to be a cheese lovers dream.”
Gorwydd, along with the other 29 cheeses, will be auctioned during The Grand Cheese Auction at The Grand Hotel, Bristol, on October 25th. Find out about buying tickets here.
The other national charity we’ve supported in the last twelve months (and every year for as long as I can remember) is the Chelsea Pensioners Ceremony of the Christmas cheeses – through the Dairy Council. The Ceremony of Christmas Cheeses dates back to 1692 when the Royal Hospital, Chelsea asked a local cheesemonger to provide the pensioners with cheese as a Christmas treat, and every year since British cheesemakers from across the country have honoured the Chelsea Pensioners.
Locally we’ve also supported the following causes in the last few months:
We love Twitter for loads of reasons, but the most obvious to me recently has been the way in which it allows us to keep in touch with people who inspire us, people who support us and people who say lovely things about our cheese.
This tweet is from a neighbour, just over the mountain from us, who takes our whey for their beautiful Manglitza pigs.
— Stuart & Angela (@Mynyddmawrherd) July 7, 2013
We also love to hear things like this…
— Rosemary Moon (@moonbites) July 11, 2013
RT @cheesesofmyton: Gorwydd Caephilly my current cheese crush.Earthy rind,creamy interior followed by a chalkier middle.Salty,tart and…
— Trethowan's Dairy (@trethowansdairy) July 16, 2013
Drinking a cold glass a cider and a slab of very ripe Gorwydd Caerphilly on a very warm summer evening – life is not so bad!
— Simply Caws (@SimplyCaws) July 10, 2013
— Fromage Homage (@fromhomage) June 28, 2013
We like to keep tabs on each other
— Neal's Yard Dairy (@NealsYardDairy) July 6, 2013
and see what’s going on at Borough Market
Cheese and tennis updates! pic.twitter.com/NUXbkH0Jee
— Gorwydd at Borough (@GorwyddBorough) July 6, 2013
— Bell's Diner (@BellsDiner) June 5, 2013
— The Ethicurean (@TheEthicurean) March 27, 2013
We love it when people like Nigel Slater say things like this
@trethowansdairy You don't really need a recipe for Gorwydd. Just enjoy. One of the great cheeses of the world. Often cook with it tho.
— nigel slater (@NigelSlater) April 30, 2013
and when people like Elisabeth Luard describe our cheese as gorgeous
@Guyropegourmet just been to Gorwydd Caerphilly cheese-makers – family business, gorgeous cheese, home via Talbot in Tregaron. Perfect.
— Elisabeth Luard (@elisabethluard) July 3, 2013
and when Fiona Beckett comes up with great pairings for our cheese
— Fiona Beckett (@winematcher) April 21, 2013
We were really delighted to feature on Diana Henry’s page in July’s Saga magazine – especially as she said our cheese, and I quote, is
1) a Welsh wonder
2) her new cheese love
3) rich, crumbly & lemony
4) utterly addictive.
and 5) perfect for sprinkling over broad beans, Jersey royals or other new potatoes, and watercress.
As you know we really like people who love our cheese.
To read Diana Henry’s whole piece, have a look at Saga Magazine