20 Jun 2016

Baron Bigod and the raw milk revolution

In many ways the story of Fen Farm Dairy in Suffolk is a familiar one. Third-generation dairy farmer Jonny Crickmore and his wife Dulcie became so fed up with rock bottom milk prices in the late noughties that they decided to turn their hands to cheese-making. 

They certainly aren't the first and won't be the last disillusioned milk producer to diversify, but the way they have gone about things has demonstrated an unusual amount of ambition, understanding and flair.

14 Jun 2016

Shropshire Blue wins British Cheeses Awards 2016

Cropwell Bishop is best known for its Stilton, but it was the Nottinghamshire company's Shropshire Blue that was named Supreme Champion at this years British Cheese Awards.
The spicy, nutty blue cheese, which is coloured orange with the addition of a vegetable dye called annatto, beat more than 900 cheeses to the title at the Royal Bath & West Show near Shepton Mallet in Somerset in June.
The award was collected by director Robin Skailes, who said the win was “an honour and accolade for our team”.
The Reserve Champion was a brand new goats milk cheese called St Thom by Lightwood Cheese, which is made by Haydn Roberts, the former head cheesemaker at Neal's Yard Creamery.
The British Cheese Awards was founded by Juliet Harbutt in 1994 and was acquired by the Royal Bath & West Show last year. The Young Cheesemonger of the Year award went to Mihaela Mercasi (below), Delicatessen Manager at The House of Bruar in Scotland.

13 Jun 2016

Top five new British cheeses

The British cheese scene goes from strength to strength with new producers and new cheeses appearing all the time. What's been noticeable in the past year or is how British cheesemakers are being more adventurous, moving beyond cheddar and Camembert-style cheeses to make more unusual and technically difficult products. It's all jolly exciting, if sometimes a bit difficult to keep up with, so here are my top five from the past 12 months or so in celebration of British Cheese Week (which was last week!).

Devon-based Sharpham Partnership is well known for its goats cheese Ticklemore but has branched into sheep's milk for the first time with Washbourne (named after a local village). A washed curd cheese (they remove some of the whey during the make and replace it with warm water to achieve a sweeter flavour and more pliable texture), the cheese is still being trialled, but the samples they sent me were absolutely knock out. It has an interesting springy texture which is somewhere between hard and semi soft and a lovely sweet mellow lactic flavour. I also picked up a nice savoury edge to the cheese, while my mother-in-law was adamant she got coconut (I'm still not 100% convinced by that!) 
Patricia Michelson at La Fromagerie recommends Champagne or an English white wine.

8 Jul 2015

Golden Cross: 'It's a 24/7 life'

Golden Cross had a good awards season last year with its eponymous goats cheese winning super gold at the World Cheese Awards and named best soft white at the British Cheese Awards. 

Not that owners Alison and Kevin Blunt were there to receive them. The couple are so busy making the St Maure-style cheese that they find it difficult to leave their farm near Lewes in East Sussex for any great length of time. 

Apart from walking to the farm gate to collect the post, Alison calculates that she hasn't been “off base” for the best part of a fortnight when I visit in early March 2015. Meanwhile, Kevin recounts how he had to miss one of their three sons playing at Lords in the final of a national village cricket competition because he had to be at the farm milking the goats. 

“Our life is ruled by the cheese, ” he says cheerfully as we take a tour of the dairy. “We'd like to get out more but the goats always need milking.”

15 Jun 2015


Don't judge a cheese by its cover. This wonky goats' cheese coated in ash is not exactly a looker (my father-in-law described it as 'fish head' cheese) but it was the stand out fromage on my Christmas cheeseboard.

Made by a cooperative in Perigord in the Dordogne, the raw milk cheese is meant to look like a shepherd's sack and the name translates as 'old bag' in colloquial French.

It's an unfortunate moniker that really doesn't do this sweet, innocent cheese justice. Underneath that grey rind is an array of textures and flavours.