Kevin led us into the building beside the barn, where they produce their cheese. He warned us to watch the uneven floor – a sign that it had been annexed and extended many times over the years to accommodate their growing business. They’ve come a long way since their humble beginnings living out of a caravan and aging goats cheese in old wooden cabinets. Their cheese has won award after award, one of the latest being ‘Best British Cheese’ and ‘Super Gold’ for Golden Cross at the World Cheese Awards, 2018-19.
First we were shown how Golden Cross was made. This is by far their most famous product - an ash goat with a distinctive bloomy, penicillin-mould rind. This cheese is unique beyond appearances; it has a dense, chewy texture in the middle, often breaking down nicely around the rind, and its flavour is buttery, mushroomy and nutty (almost sesame-like) with a very low acidity for a goat’s cheese. Depending on the time of year, it can take roughly 80-100 litres of milk to produce 40 of these delicious cheeses. Once they have collected the milk, it is inoculated with the penicillium candidum fungi, which will give the cheese its characteristic bloomy rind as it matures. The milk is then mixed with the starter and vegetarian rennet and left in a warm room for 24 hours, until it has coagulated. Once the curds have formed, they’re ladled by hand into the moulds, where they will sit for another 24 hours to drain, being flipped once in their moulds. The next morning, the cheeses are very carefully removed from their moulds and put onto racks. They are then salted, before being put into drying rooms. After one or two days, they are lightly dusted with the charcoal by hand, using a sifter. As they mature, and the rind begins to form, the rinds have to be lightly patted down so that they don’t become too fluffy. After 11 days of maturation in the drying room, they’re ready to be packaged and sent off to cheese shops across the country.
One of the things that this trip really brought home for me was how much respect artisanal farmhouse cheese producers such as Kevin and Alison deserve for what they do. While theirs may sound like the good life on paper, they have to work non-stop, year-round, to do what they do. They only get about three days of holiday a year. This isn’t just a job for them, they’ve committed their whole lives to cheese-making, and it was only after meeting them that I began to truly understand what that entails. This is why it’s so important to support people like them who are brave/mad enough to do it, in order to keep British cheese-making alive and thriving. We need people like them for the future.