Posted: 26/02/2020

Decade begins with raft of new British cheesemakers

A new wave of artisan cheesemakers is focussing on issues such as sustainability, provenance and branding as British cheese evolves at the start of a new decade. 

Recent months have seen a number of cheesemaking operations set up in a variety of locations across the UK, with the Specialist Cheesemakers Association (SCA) helping to nurture new businesses through its Patron’s Development Award, which was set up last year to provide support in areas including technical advice, knowledge sharing and business strategy. So far 19 cheesemakers have successfully applied to the scheme, while the SCA has also seen membership grow to 218 cheesemakers, who make more than 720 cheeses in total.

Sam Horton and Rachael Turner at Long Churn Cheese, which is based at the Courtyard Dairy near Settle, Yorkshire, won a bursary from the SCA last year to help in their plan to make a raw sheep’s milk Crottin-style cheese called Fen Beck. 

“We want to create a grass-based, low-input system by rearing sheep that can stay out year round,” said Horton. “We want to reflect the land through our cheese and be as sustainable and traditional as possible. There’s an increased focus among the public on sustainability and ethical questions.”

Other new cheesemakers that have recently set up include the Mount Goat’s Cheese in Pembrokeshire, Fife-based mozzarella maker the Buffalo Farm and Pevensey Cheese in East Sussex, run by former Neal’s Yard shop manager Martin Tkalez. 

At the Home Farmer in Yorkshire, the Spence family has started making a cloth-bound Wensleydale called Old Roan using raw milk from its own 90-strong herd of cows, after receiving encouragement and advice from Wensleydale Creamery boss David Hartley.

“It’s a very traditional recipe with a slow make that results in a moister cheese,” explained co-owner Ben Spence. “It’s how Wensleydale used to be made before the war.”

Balcombe Dairy in Sussex was set up at the end of last year by former High Weald head cheesemaker Chris Heyes in four converted shipping containers. The new company makes a  Gorgonzola-style cheese called Blue Clouds, which is wrapped in perforated laminated foil with a colourful hand-painted label. “I wanted a cheese that stood out on counters and had a point of difference,” he said. “There were more than 800 cheeses entered into the British Cheese Awards last year – the market is buoyant.”

This story appeared in the January/February issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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