Coronavirus spawns new generation of aged cheeses
A new generation of aged cheeses has hit the market as Britain’s artisan cheesemakers continue to adapt their businesses during the coronavirus crisis.
As reported in FFD, many cheese producers saw sales fall by up to 85% during lockdown when restaurant, hotel and export orders collapsed, leaving maturing rooms full of short shelf-life soft and blue cheeses.
Although, this stock has now been cleared – thanks to a surge in online sales – cheesemakers have moved to develop new hard and aged ‘lockdown cheeses’ to store surplus milk, reduce the risk of wastage in the future and help rebuild sales.
King Stone Dairy in Gloucestershire, best known for making the soft, washed rind cheese Rollright, launched two longer-ageing cheeses last month – the Morbier-style Ashcombe and Tomme-style Moreton – as a direct response to an 80% drop in forecasted sales. The company is also planning to launch a Single Gloucester-style cheese called Chedworth.
“Producing a soft, volatile cheese exacerbates the precarity of the business,” said owner David Jowett. “But adversity is the mother of invention. We have to find ways to use the milk and generate income from it. Hard cheese is the obvious answer.”
He added: “We had no idea how much of our cheese was going into restaurants, so it was a shock. We had to take a long hard look at what we make and spread where we sell our cheese.”
Other new lockdown cheeses include Crookwheel, a hard sheep’s milk variety developed by Martin Gott in Cumbria, who is also trialling a hard goats’ milk cheese named Holbrook, after the late cheesemaker Mary Holbrook.
Likewise FW Read & Sons, which makes Lincolnshire Poacher, found itself with a surfeit of milk from its own herd during lockdown as cheese orders and demand for liquid milk fell. In response, the company developed a new hard cheese which can be kept for up to three years. Poacher 50 is made by heating the curds to 50°C, so it has a drier, Parmesan-like texture.
Burt’s Cheese in Cheshire, which makes the soft Burt’s Blue, is also currently developing a new cloth-bound Cheshire cheese for similar reasons. “It will help the flow of products through our maturing rooms because it lasts longer and is more stable,” said owner Claire Burt.