British artisan cheese’s bright future

07 July 2021, 07:33 AM
  • James Grant of No2 Pound Street explains how upgrading his shop and learning the art of affinage offers opportunities for boosting Britain’s cheese sector

Since venturing into the cheese world over a decade ago, I have always kept a careful eye on the way that our cheese is kept. For one, it is a product that can easily spoil if not looked after. Also, and importantly, to avoid the growth of any harmful bacteria the temperature of your cheese fridges has to be spot on and in line with your local EHO’s recommendation.

When No2 Pound Street first opened, we had a 1.5 metre deli counter and a tiny walk-in fridge. Today we are lucky to have two further fridges. The second was installed roughly five years ago and the third has finally just been put into action. Our deli counter is now roughly 2.5 metres and took us two to three years to put in place after opening the doors in 2010.

We had no idea what we were going to need. One thing is for sure; a small business with limited funds only grows organically and only when there is a reasonable harvest (unless you have very deep pockets). We also would not have been able to afford our latest fridge had it not been for winning a Bucks Business Covid recovery grant.

This I hope will make our working lives easier. Certainly our cheese stock takes are quicker now that we can actually see all the cheese.

So why three fridges, you may ask? As we are a small operation, in order to increase revenues we had to expand. There was no way that we could afford another property so we decided to take on several local farmers and artisan food markets (hard work, but worth it).

This has helped us bring in much needed funds for payroll and other operational costs, but importantly we are now able to spread the word on artisan cheese more freely. This for me personally is great, especially as I know that what I do helps support other SMEs that need our support – especially when compared to the industrial giants that are truly faceless and only offer inferior mass produced imitations. So having more fridge space means you can sell more cheese… simple really.

My new fridge – what a breath of fresh and gently cool air it has been. This will allow us to further develop our skills as we now venture in to the world of affinage. As I type, we have a 25 kilogram truckle of a very young Quicke’s Cheddar about to embark on a journey of time. Ageing cheese is an art; it is kind of like being a great DJ playing the right music for the crowd to dance to.

I must offer my thanks to heroes like Alan Hayes for his advice from Capital Refrigeration and Tag Refrigeration’s amazing install with project manager Michael Bradley. Without these exceptional companies’ wisdom and experience I could not have achieved this.

Importantly, being able to buy cheese to age on directly from the cheesemakers can open a world of opportunity. If you can help free space from the cheesemaker’s own cheese ageing rooms you are potentially helping to increase the production of artisan cheese. There is a chance that the cheesemaker will offer a sharper price point as well, which is nice.

Do consider how you keep your cheese and if you can in time learn the art of affinage – I believe there is a big future right here and right now (as Moby mixed) in the British artisan cheese world. Now that is music to my ears. Let’s dance.

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