Tag Archives: Maugan Trethowan

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


Why we love Twitter

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.

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We also love to hear things like this…

We like to keep tabs on each other

and see what’s going on at Borough Market

and we like to see how restaurants, like Bells Diner and The Ethicurean are serving our cheese

We love it when people like Nigel Slater say things like this

and when people like Elisabeth Luard describe our cheese as gorgeous

and when Fiona Beckett comes up with great pairings for our cheese

We’re 100% handmade



Cheese, Cider, Beer, Wine, Vintage tent, apples, cider barn, cheese makers

cheese school flyer final

Ned’s latest letter home

Dear Maugan, Kim, Jess and Todd,

Apologies for the rather terse communique last time (didn’t get published here, was too terse and sad after loss of Bermondsey 7). We didn’t have great weekends because the market was a bit quiet, and we seemed to be giving away an awful lot of free cheese which always makes me a bit grumpy.
Happily last week end was FANTASTIC. The market was busy and we have changed our sampling tactics, a move which has paid off rather well. So we sold 17 and a bit cheeses, which is great! Also we gave away 2% less cheese which has had a nice effect on our margins.
We used to leave a board of samples on the counter for people to help themselves. Which is very generous of us. The thing is that when the market is very busy people tend to take them without really noticing what they’re tasting. Also we tend to interact less with people that way. Of course what with the cheese being stupendous we get a lot of customers returning at the end of the day having tried everything else in the market. Which is nice. Recently however the rate of sampling to sales has not been so good. So now we keep hold of the board and offer it to people, so we’re getting more conscious attention from our samplees and interacting more with people. And it works.
It is however even more knackering as you are really talking much more to more people. I think the bits of my vocal chords that say things like ‘this is an unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese called Caerphilly’ are wearing thin. Also in the busier bits, as soon as you proffer the board you are immediately surrounded by a sea of shining expectant faces, which is very sweet but can get a bit overwhelming. As a result Joby and I seem to have evolved a sort of tag-team mongering style where we swap over the front position as one of us starts to wilt.
On Friday our dear old scales finally gave up the ghost. This was a bit wearing as it had just got busy. Thankfully we have lots of nice friends in the market so we weighed and priced up a load of pieces, then I left the redoubtable Thea alone on the stall while I tore off to get a new set. She was looking a bit frazzled when I got back but was quickly restored by the sight of our shiny new excitingly back lit scales. It is with gratitude that we send the old ones off to the happy weighing grounds in the sky, long live the new set!
I have spent the week in the garden working with my builder to turn out Fungus the Bogeyman swamp into a nice place to be. So now I am absolutely knackered and broke. We’ll have to work extra hard this week-end to pay for it. You are all invited round for the inaugural barbeque when it is done.
At great personal cost I have found a new cheese joke for you all. Here it is:
What do you call flying cheeses?
Curds of prey.
It is funny. I like it.
Carry on!

Gorwydd Water Wheel

Toast Travels – Diary of a Cheesemaker – Chapter 3: Spring

Bidding fond farewell to winter cheeses

The garden is now dotted with hundred of crocuses so Spring is surely springing. But before it is totally sprung, lets just look back at some of the lovely winter cheeses that we’ve been eating for the last few months.  Their characters will all be changing with the seasons – particularly the Gorwydd Caerphilly as the cows head back outside to pasture. Some, like the Vacherin Mont D’or will disappear entirely until the autumn.  Here’s a lovely piece written by Alex for Harbourside magazine about these seasonal beauties.

Looking after the wholesale business for Trethowan’s Dairy means constant contact with some of the top chefs in Bristol and one of the elements that excites them all are seasonal foods. Few people however would include cheese in that category.

The fact is, when dealing  with artisan cheeses, even those that are available all year will change with the seasons depending on what the animals are eating.

With the clocks changing & daylight at a premium our bodies crave comfort foods and  as a stored product, cheese has always been an important winter protein source. Here are some of my favourites to turn to as the days close in.

Our own Gorwydd Caerphilly will increasingly be made with silage fed milk giving concentrated flavours & creaminess. The melting butteriness and mushroomy earthiness from the rind make it perfect for cheese on toast. Seek out a good sourdough loaf for the perfect snack.

Ogleshield is another great one for melting . Made by Jamie Montgomery of Cheddar fame, we use this  West Country Jersey milk cheese on our Raclette machines. However it also makes wonderfully rich Pommes Dauphinoise or pasta bake. Add a salad of winter greens and supper is done.

Ordinarily I would classify goat and sheep’s milk cheeses as late spring, early summer cheeses, when they first reappear after lambing or kidding, but Dorstone, an ash rolled goat cheese made by Charlie Westhead in Herefordshire has a meatiness at this time of year that satisfies. Look out for the Apricot and Cider chutney which will be paired with it at Christmas.

Everybody thinks of Stilton as Xmas draws near, but Stichelton, an unpasteurised blue cheese made by Joe Schneider on the Wellbeck Estate in Notts. is supreme in my opinion. The balance of sweet milk and salty blueing will win over any doubters.

Finally, Vacherin Mont d’Or was designed for winter eating. Made with milk from Alpine cattle who graze in high mountain pastures, these first become available around mid October until they run out in Feb/March. Trethowan’s carry one of the few hand made versions still available. Intended for high calorific intake to survive mountain winters it is a great sharing cheese. It can be baked in the box and scooped like a fondue.

So do your bit for the planet, turn down the heating and eat more cheese this winter.

Alex Te-Strote, Trethowan’s Dairy

Trethowan’s Dairy Shop

The Glass Arcade, St Nicholas Market, Bristol



I Spy .. A Double Agent’s Report on Trethowan’s CheeseSchool

Bordeaux Quay, 6th Feb 2011

by Alex Testrote, Trethowan’s Dairy

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The Cheese School concept was the brainchild of Jess Trethowan and Fiona Beckett and took it’s fledgling steps last year. Whilst I have had no direct involvement, I have watched it’s progress with a solicitous and avuncular eye.
The idea is to offer the public  the occasion  to learn more about every aspect of the subject, with modules on the history and tenets of British artisan cheeses, choosing, buying & storing, food and drink pairings, presentation, as well as the rare opportunity to taste and consider in isolation, as you would with a wine for instance. So when I was given the chance to observe it up close & personal, with a foot in both camps, I could not pass it by.
The day was full on but fun, and having cheese makers present in the room along with experts in many other aspects of the related products and skill bases may have been initially a little daunting, but their generosity and enthusiasm soon overcame any reservations. By the time the simple, but stunning and topical lunch was served there was no doubt about all present wanting to stay and glean every last jewel of knowledge.
From my perspective, growing an interest whilst also giving greater insight into the world of singular, hand crafted cheese production including labour costs and the real people behind the product not only benefits the retail aspects. A lot of my involvement is at the cutting edge of the food industry, by which I mean spending a large part of my “Trethowan Time” talking to chefs & restaurateurs who, though they may have a huge empathy for fine ingredients, still find it hard to push the message to customers that view the product as complete, and with no visible added value from the chef other than putting it on the plate, the need to be asking an average of around £12 for an optional course. It is a difficult sell, and for them possibly the highest single ingredient cost.
If we can convince people who are dining out that they should be looking critically at how and where a restaurant sources, stores and presents it’s cheeses as an indication and extension of the care it gives to sourcing all its produce, then we back them in that decision, and I see that as part of our role.  In a retail environment there is a direct interface with the end user and the chance to convince, in wholesale no such luxury exists. Whilst we can give support & training to restaurant staff, an empowered and knowledgeable customer can drive standards up faster than a busy front of house staff.
In recent times we have seen a lot of publicity given to why we should query how and where a lot of ingredients in the food we consume outside of our homes is sourced, food miles, seasonality, ethical issues not to mention security, cheese has very much been bypassed in all these discussions, but as a reemerging industry in the UK, it is an equally valid resource.
Having seen the enthusiasm generated at Cheese School on Sunday at Bordeaux Quay I was hugely encouraged. Like the rise of British artisan cheese making in general, Cheese School is still finding its wings, but the audience was responsive, the appreciation was tangible and the message was clear. I think this may be the next big campaign, and I already see lot of industry people and food writers getting behind it.
Incidentally, as a spy in the camp I managed a crafty sneak at the feedback forms, the comments, like the questions on the day, were intelligent and inciteful and I am sure they will be used to take Cheese School to the next level.
Overall, all I can offer from my sneaky observations is this advice :- If they try to make you go to cheese school just say Yes, Yes,Yes

And another great write up from Cheese School pupil, Silvanna De Soissons

More thankyou’s to follow in full on the cheese school website.

Awaiting more wonderful photos by @EatPictures

Neals Yard Creamery at Cheese School

We are so excited that Charlie Westhead is coming to join us at Cheese School on Sunday. He’s going to be talking about all sorts of things (well, cheese mainly) but I know I’m going to be asking him about his dairies use of alternative technology.

Their small-scale approach to cheese making means that they retain control not only of the production, but also of their power and heating needs. This is not something they undertake as a publicity exercise – it is at the core of everything they do, both at home and in business. Their electricity is sourced from ethical suppliers, and as much as possible is generated on-site by their windmill. Their heat requirements are amply handled with their customised furnace, burning locally sourced wood.

winter colours, bumps and beanies

A lovely post from Kim …There is that old saying, “…to start as you mean to carry on.” Well it can definitely be applied to the month of January as it has certainly stuck to its guns with the challenging temperatures it has thrown us from beginning to end. Today, the last day of Jan began as -9C and crept up to -5C….fffffffreezing! Roll on spring!

For me, now confined to the warmth of the office due to an ever, increasing bump, can appreciate the added extra’s a day like today can bring. Looking out the window as I write this, the fields and mountain behind the house are illuminated by the winter sun giving the land more colour than it can produce itself at this time of the year. Whereas for those in the confines of the dairy the focus is more on the number of layers you can conceivably wear while still being able to perform cheese-making duties without inflicting personal injury.

One good way of shifting focus away from the cold is to occupy your mind with some good tunes from a favourite radio show. ‘Listen Again’ has been our god send over winter and one show which we will now struggle without, was Mark Lamar’s ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’ Radio 2. He’ll be sadly missed.

I shouldn’t grumble about the cold so much as in the past if ever it were a competition, I would’ve won the most layers ever worn in the dairy on any given day. I so much feel the cold that it is not until the middle of summer that I finally feel sure enough to shed my little blue woollen hat. So synonymous am I with it that I am hardly recognised without it snuggled atop of my head. So grateful am I for finally being warm.

Our cheese making days are drawn out on cold days like today as it takes just that bit longer to warm everything up. Our cold water comes from a long way below ground and takes a long time to heat the vat up. The milk temperature is always colder than usual so will take a while to warm up and there is no requirement to speed things up as that’s not what cheese making is all about for us. You just have to take each day as it comes and let it happen in it’s own time so our days can vary a lot.

One lovely thing about milk deliveries on a very cold day is the amount of cream floating about on the surface. It is a struggle to prevent yourself from plunging your face into the frothy, warming milk and take a massive drink. (The image of our EHO’s face as you do it is enough to keep you standing upright!). More cream/fat is naturally produced when the temperature dips, which is another factor influencing the flavour and texture of our cheeses during the winter months.

Some interesting visitors have graced the farm gates over this month, mostly of the 4-legged kind. A couple of foxes have ventured in quite close in search of food and it’s been a pleasure huddled at the windows to watch them. This Wednesday we will also be hosting the head of the Catalan Group of Cheese makers as he includes us in his tour around Britain observing how small producers manage with the amount of support we not only get from our customers but also from within the industry. And I shall be making my own visit as I’ll be helping Fred out in the shop on Saturday for a couple of hours (mostly as an excuse to chomp on some of my favourite cheeses… sorry Fred!).

Keep warm and lets hope for some more reasonable temperatures throughout February. Now, where’s my hat……………..


Kim and Maugan Trethowan will be speaking at Cheese School this sunday in Bristol