First batch of Gorwydd Caerphilly made with new supply of Somerset milk

It was an operation coordinated with military precision. Stuart would drive through the night, down from Neal’s Yard Creamery in Herefordshire, trailing a borrowed milk tanker. We were to meet him in a lay-by on the A370 at 4.30am.

Todd and Stuart, who transported the milk to Wales, looking lively at 4.30am.

Todd and Stuart, happily chatting away at 4.45am while the milk loads onto the trailer.

From there, we drove in convoy down country lanes to Puxton Court Farm, where pump and hose were swiftly attached to the milk tank that had been holding 1500 litres for us overnight.

Waiting for the milk to be pumped from the tank onto the trailer.

Waiting for the milk to be pumped from the tank onto the trailer.

 

37 minutes later, Stuart’s tanker was full, and without delay he departed for the three hour journey to Gorwydd Farm where the milk was loaded into the vat in time for a 9.00am cheese-making start.

The milk is delivered into the dairy at Gorwydd Farm.

The milk is delivered into the dairy at Gorwydd Farm.

An old man that lives up in the Hereford hills near Hay-on-Wye, who knows a thing or two about cheese, once told Todd: people get hold of a cheese-making book, and they’ll skip the first chapter that tells you how important it is to get the best possible milk supply, and go straight to the techniques and recipes.

We have spent 18 years honing our cheese-making skills, and were determined to make milk quality our number one priority in relocating. Wherever an excellent supply of milk was found, that would be our destination. All our testing and tasting told us that we’d found a fantastic source of milk at Puxton Court Farm, so to make our first batch of Gorwydds with the very milk we will be using from July has been extremely exciting.

The Puxton Court Farm milk enters the Gorwydd vat.

The Puxton Court Farm milk enters the Gorwydd vat.

As the day progressed, the signs were good. Maugan’s dispatch from Gorwydd Farm that afternoon read:

Milk tastes great. Curd during scald tastes great (milky and clean) (Rufy agrees). Just about to do texturing.

Rufus is Maugan’s two-year-old son, and a discerning critic of curd!

 

First batch of Gorwydds made from Somerset milk... in the press!

First batch of Gorwydds made from Somerset milk… in the press!

 

In two months’ time, the cheese will have matured, although we will start tasting it much earlier to see how it’s coming along. The early signs are that it’s going to be a truly delicious cheese.

Freshly pressed and on the racks.

Freshly pressed and on the racks.

 

Digging for Victory!

Yesterday morning we made the trip out to Puxton Court Farm to have a meeting with Alan, the dairy refrigeration expert we are working with.

Steve relates the story of the Great Escape!

Chewing the cud with Steve

We came across Steve, the herdsman, moving calves around in a specially made calf pram. We had never seen anything like it! Last time we visited, we gave Steve a chunk of Gorwydd, and he said he was looking forward to having it on his doorstep.

We began our visit in the cow shed, to take another look at the lovely herd that will be producing all that beautiful milk which will be turned into tasty Gorwydds. The cows are still being kept indoors, and will be released to outdoor living next month when it dries up a bit.

Todd is so happy to have his own herd!

Todd commooning with the cows.

It’s always exciting to arrive at the site and see what progress has been made since the last visit. This week, though the fog had lifted, the progress wasn’t as visible!

Groundworks underway as the build progresses.

Groundworks underway as the build progresses.

This is in no way to say that the build hasn’t moved forward, but rather that the work has been occurring at ground level, and below… Lots of digging! We talked drains, drains and more drains. The groundworks require a large number of drains in all the rooms of the dairy. As Todd was keen to point out, there’s more washing up and washing down goes on in a dairy than cheese-making!

A view of the dairy construction underway, seen through the entrance to the cow barn.

A view of the dairy construction underway, seen through the entrance to the cow barn.

The proximity of the cows and the milking parlour (just off to the right of this picture) to the place where the cheese will be made mere metres away is always exciting to see.

 

Roof goes on as fog descends

We’ve been subjected to an awful lot of rain this winter. January and February both saw seemingly never-ending storms and downpours, and anyone with half an eye on the news will have seen the devastating flooding on the Somerset Levels.

Flooded Somerset Levels seen from the top of Glastonbury Tor, January 2014

The flooded Somerset Levels seen from the top of Glastonbury Tor, January 2014

When we’ve mentioned to people that we’re having a new dairy built in Somerset, we’ve been asked more than a few times: have you been flooded?

The Somerset Levels lie to the South of the Mendip Hills, and the drainage of this low-lying land has been carried out since before the Middle Ages. Yet, as we have seen this year, man’s attempts to control nature do not always work, and water levels remained very high during the winter rains. Our thoughts have been with our friends to the South for the past few months. Puxton Court Farm lies to the north of the Mendip Hills in an area known as the North Somerset Levels, where flooding has not occurred (touch wood!). We are happy to say that the site of the dairy was spared the inundation!

Nevertheless, stormy weather did hinder the build at the very start, so we are pleased and very excited to see real progress being made now that the weather is settling down. On Friday last week, Todd and Alan, our project manager from Capital Refrigeration, made a site visit in order to check floor levels and make some final measurements now that the steel columns are up.

Alan Hayes, our project manager, measures up to finalise his drawings.

Alan Hayes, our project manager, measures up to finalise his drawings.

It was exciting to see that the building now has a roof! The foggy weather made for some very atmospheric conditions and great photographs, although the damp air and water droplets played havoc with Alan’s laser measure.

It's exciting to think that in a few months time Gorwydd Caerphilly will be made underneath this roof!

In a few months time, Gorwydd Caerphilly will be made underneath this roof!

The whole move is beginning to feel very real and while Maugan is busy making cheese back home at Gorwydd, he and Todd are also sanding down 150 year old cheese presses ready for use and planning how to move the cheeses and the recipe with minimum disruption to supply, as well as, importantly, our precious bacteria and moulds!

Exciting future for Gorwydd Caerphilly as Trethowan’s Dairy moves to Somerset

We are excited to announce that we will be moving to a brand new purpose-built dairy at Puxton Court Farm in North Somerset this coming July.

We will be very sad to leave Gorwydd Farm, the local area and Wales altogether. We’ve been making Gorwydd here for 18 years since Todd took over the old barns and sheds, and turned out a few Gorwydds in a borrowed cheese vat.

Todd with the Puxton Court Farm herd.

Todd with the Puxton Court Farm herd.

In lots of ways however, the move to Somerset is bringing the cheese full circle. We will now be making it just over 10 miles from where Todd originally learnt the recipe. And funnily enough, we will also be making it closer to Caerphilly than we do now!

There’s been a long history of caerphilly making in Somerset as between the First and Second World Wars, cheddar makers turned to caerphilly as a quicker way to turn their milk into money than cheddar.  Lots of farmers we’ve spoken to in the Somerset area have told us it was usual to make a batch of caerphilly every Sunday.

Our main driver in our quest to do one thing well – make beautiful Gorwydds – is finding the best possible milk – and the quality of the milk at Puxton Court Farm is second to none. Our new dairy is just across the yard from the milking parlour so this is an amazing opportunity to work with beautiful milk from a fantastic pedigree herd. We are really looking forward to working with Steve Hearn, the herdsman, to develop our understanding of the variations in the milk and the effect they have on our cheese, without having to change supply, as we do currently, throughout the year.

Steve Hearn starts the afternoon milking of the 100-strong Holstein herd at Puxton Court Farm.

Steve Hearn starts the afternoon milking of the 100-strong Holstein herd at the farm.

The facilities will be brand new and we will have the capacity to produce more cheese, but we will still be making Gorwydd in exactly the same hands-on way we always have, using the third generation recipe that Todd learnt 20 years ago.

It’s a real end of an era leaving the family farm at Gorwydd but we are excited about the move and the fantastic long-term future it secures for Gorwydd Caerphilly.

Moving Gorwydd Caerphilly is simply continuing the itinerant tradition of this type of cheese. Its name and its roots will continue to be Welsh, just as ours are. We think that our grandmother Eleanor Lewis would be pleased. We will continue to make cheese at Gorywdd up until just before we move into our new dairy.

Construction of the new dairy has begun, seen here with the cow shed and milking parlour just behind.

The new dairy goes up, seen here with the cow shed and milking parlour just behind.

Construction of the new dairy has just begun. We will be updating this blog regularly with news of progress as the building goes up and the new dairy takes shape.

If you have questions do get in touch.

Image

Gorwydd Autumn Newsletter

 

CLICK ON IMAGE FOR FULL NEWSLETTERTrethowans Dairy newsletter autumn 2013Trethowans Dairy newsletter autumn 2013

How we got started

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:

  • White Burgundy; Chenin Blanc; Maçon-Villages; Chablis
  • a cider, perry or light hoppy ale
  • apple juice, pear juice
  • a second flush darjeeling tea.

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

Image

A Cracking Good Cause

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.

Image

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.”

Image

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.

ImageLocally we’ve also supported the following causes in the last few months:

  • Air Ambulance -Tregaron Bowling Club for First Response
  • Cancer Research - Llanfair Clydogau auction for
  • Llanddewi Brefi Primary School - New Inn auction
  • Llanddewi Brefi church - Cheese and Wine evening
  • Sponsor of Lampeter Agricultural Show