The rare breed Gloucester cows behind a rare cheese
Not many people make Single Gloucester but only Jonathan Crump makes it with 100% Gloucester milk
Jonathan Crump is a cheesemaker who has more important things to talk about than cheese. It’s not that he isn’t happy to chat rinds, rennet and scald temperatures, it’s just that somehow he manages to keep bringing the conversation back to his true passion: rare-breed Gloucester cows.
“I do really, really like my cows,” he tells FFD. “They all have names and very different personalities. Some are calm. Some are feisty. I didn’t start making cheese because of the cheese. It was a way for me to keep the cows.”
To be fair, Gloucester cows are rather special. Mahogany and white with black heads and sweeping horns, the dual-purpose breed dates back to the 13th Century. But it fell out of favour as higher-yielding animals became the norm – until there was only one herd left in the 1970s.
Thankfully, the breed was saved from extinction by a group of enthusiasts, with new markets for beef and traditional cheeses helping to grow numbers to around 800 cows.
Crump’s herd at Standish Park Farm near Stroud, which he started in 1998, averages 80 cows, 20 of which are milked to make unpasteurised Single and Double Gloucester cheeses.
“Gloucester cows give a lot less milk – maybe 4,000 litres a year compared to 10,000 litres from a modern Holstein,” says Crump. “But it’s really well-suited to cheesemaking because it’s higher in protein and coagulates nicely.”
Protected designation of origin
While Double Gloucester is made on an industrial scale around the country, Single Gloucester is protected by a PDO, which was secured in 2007 by fellow cheesemaker Charles Martell. He was a key figure in reviving traditional Gloucester cheesemaking after it almost completely died out following World War Two, due to soaring demand for liquid milk and block cheeses.
“Charles was really helpful when I first set up and he remains a good friend,” says Crump, who has always been fascinated by animals, despite not coming from farming stock. “I started with chickens when I was six, got my first sheep when I was 12 and my first cow when I was 21.”
The terms of the PDO are loose, stating that Single Gloucester “must, whenever possible, include milk obtained from Gloucester cows maintained within the defined area”. It means most of the six current producers of the cheese only have a handful of the animals in their herds.
Crump however makes both cheeses using 100% Gloucester milk. “I’m lucky that Gloucester cheeses are so closely linked to one type of cow,” he says. “It makes us a bit different to other British cheeses.”
A different approach
Crump’s approach to farming is also a bit different. The cows graze on unimproved permanent pastures during the summer and are fed hay from the farm, rather than silage, during the winter when they are still put out to graze almost every day. Calves are also allowed to suckle from older nurse cows for around five months, rather than the more common practice of weaning at eight weeks.
Standish Park Farm only produces around four tonnes of cheese a year, split evenly between Single and Double Gloucester. That’s a tiny amount even by artisan cheesemaking standards, but it’s precisely because the business is small that it is successful, with around three quarters of production sold within Gloucestershire, as well as to Paxton & Whitfield and The Courtyard Dairy.
“I really like the fact most of the cheese is sold locally,” says Crump. “The way we farm is not common, but it works.”
Jonathan Crump’s Single Gloucester PDO
- Nobody knows for sure why there are ‘Single’ and ‘Double’ Gloucester cheeses. It may be that Double Gloucester was so called because it was taller than the Singles, or that the milk for Single Gloucester was skimmed for butter, while whole milk was used for Double.
- Both Crump’s cheeses are made in 2.5kg wheels with whole raw milk and vegetarian rennet. The Single Gloucester is aged for two months (compared to four months for the annatto-dyed Double) and has a thin rind with very little mould.
- The texture is moist and flaky with rich dairy flavours and a grassy acidity. Crump likes to pair it with a glass of perry from Tom Oliver in Herefordshire.