This excerpt from Diary of a cheese-maker first appeared on Toast Travels in August 2011.
Almost exactly a year has gone by since I wrote the first Diary of a Cheesemaker and so once again, I am sitting, looking at a beautiful autumn-scape of trees on the turn, berries and beautiful sunlight. I can see the cows munching away on the rough ground. It won’t be long before they go inside for the winter months and begin their silage diet, which produces that lovely creamy milk we so value for our Christmas cheeses.
We have had an eventful year at the farm. Kim gave birth to Rufus, the newest generation of cheesemaker. And so the dairy has had to find its feet somewhat as Kim was such a linchpin in the cheese-making and maturation, in talking to customers and organising for the cheese to go out to our buyers.
We also won our first award for Gorwydd Washed Rind. Essentially our classic Gorwydd, but once made, pressed and brined, Maugan washes it with a salt solution once a week, every week for three months. This develops a mould called B-linens that takes on a golden orange colour, a stark contrast to the usual velvety grey of the original Gorwydd. The taste and texture of the washed rind is also distinct – being slightly more pungent in flavour and silkier in texture. The Irish washed-rind cheeses such as Ardrahan, Gubbeen and Milleens have always been held in very high regard so to be placed in amongst some of the most established and beautiful of these cheeses means a great deal to us.
Maugan and Kim only make one of these cheeses a week as we struggle to make even enough of our mainstay, Gorwydd Caerphilly. At the moment the only place we are selling the Gorwydd Washed Rind (GWR) is in our Bristol shop, though this has been a great place to sample it and gauge regular customers’ reactions. Perhaps in the New Year we’ll begin to make some more, once the Christmas rush is over…
The other opportunity we get to see what people think of our cheese (and of the other cheeses we sell in our shop) is at the tastings we hold throughout the year. These take many different forms and ‘pop up’ in a great many inspiring venues. This year, we’ve run them in a beautiful church, a wine cellar, a cookery school, on a boat and in the Bath and Notting Hill Toast shops!
Our last event, Autumn Cheese School, was in a vintage marquee and a cider barn in an orchard at the foot of a wonderful Somerset walled garden. Cheese School brings together cheese lovers and cheesemakers, brewers, bakers, wine experts and, in this case, apple experts too. We spend a whole day, tasting, talking, learning, eating, drinking and having fun. It is about reminding people where real food comes from, how it’s made, and by who. It is also about giving people the confidence and the tools to taste and understand flavours and textures in a way they may not have done before.
The Walled Garden is a magical place, with a restaurant run by The Ethicurean, a group of extraordinarily talented people. We loved the fact that we were surrounded by produce and, most particularly, by apples. Most of the apples are picked and pressed by the end of October, but their fragrance lingers in the cider barn, where we demonstrated how cheese can be made at home in the kitchen. We also spent a lot of time looking at how the cheese and British apples – such as those grown in the walled garden: Peasgood’s Nonsuch, Laxton’s Epicure, Tom Putt, Ashmead’s Kernel, Blenheim Orange – make the perfect pairing.
These events are important to us because they reassure us that our slow and artisinal product and approach is still highly valued. A great relief in these increasingly technologically-focused times… Join us sometime?