Cheese News July 2024: What’s happening on the British cheese scene?

12 July 2024, 05:00 AM
  • A guide to the movers and shakers in British dairy and cheese this month
Cheese News July 2024: What’s happening on the British cheese scene?

Family celebrates ‘touching’ award at Great Yorkshire Show

Shepherds Purse, the artisan family cheesemaker, is enjoying a double celebration as it won Supreme Champion Cheese at the Great Yorkshire Show, on top of celebrating its 35th anniversary at the show.

The cheesemaker first launched at the Great Yorkshire Show in 1989 when its founder, the late Judy Bell MBE, took her innovative sheep’s milk ‘Feta’ (now Mrs Bell’s Salad Cheese), with mixed responses from farmers who weren’t used to eating cheese made from sheep’s milk.

Fast forward to today, and for the first time ever at the Great Yorkshire Show, Shepherds Purse has won Supreme Champion for its newly launched Organic Yorkshire Blue cheese which uses milk produced at Acorn Organic Dairies . The judges described the winner as having “a creamy texture with elegant, sweet notes, buttery, creamy, indulgent and well balanced. A well-deserved winner.” The sisters have dedicated their prestigious win to their mum.

The family’s first organic cheese also won major trophies in the Best Organic Product in Show and Best Yorkshire Product in Show classes as well as Mrs Bell’s Blue securing the Best Blue Cheese in Show trophy – a hotly contested category. On top of these wins there were also six golds, three silvers and five bronze awards for the cheese making family.

Katie Matten, joint managing director of Shepherds Purse, said, “We are absolutely thrilled to win the Supreme Champion Cheese award at the Great Yorkshire Show and to win it for the first time on our 35th anniversary is beyond special.

“It’s such a fitting tribute to our mum, Judy especially as she’d always wanted to launch an organic cheese. Caroline and I feel proud that we have delivered her ambitions and so this win really does seem like the perfect way to celebrate the journey we’ve been on as a family and a business.  Our 35th anniversary feels like a significant milestone after the sadness of losing mum but we now look to the future as we continue to produce our world-class cheeses and to fly the flag for Yorkshire cheesemaking.”

Who won Supreme Champion at the 2024 Virtual Cheese Awards?

Nettlebed Creamery is celebrating being named Supreme Champion at the Virtual Cheese Awards. Witheridge – a semi-hard cheese aged in hay – is the third organic cheese in the awards’ five-year history to take the prize.

Penny Nagle of the Organic Cheesemaker’s Network says, “This is an endorsement of just how good organic milk and cheese tastes. For organic cheese to beat all other handmade artisan cheeses in the UK and Ireland is an achievement in itself, but to do this three years out of five indicates that organic cheese is recognised by professional cheese tasters as tasting a whole lot better than non-organic options.”

“The quality of British cheese entered into our awards just keeps on getting better,” says Sarah de Wit of the Virtual Cheese Awards. “We’re proud that an organic cheese has been crowned Supreme Champion. Witheridge in Hay is a truly spectacular cheese that wowed judges.”

Long Clawson’s Stilton wins Supreme Champion at ICDA 2024

British Stilton is making its comeback on the cheese scene as Long Clawson’s Blue Stilton took the crown at this year’s International Cheese & Dairy Awards (ICDAs), one of the world’s biggest platform for world-class cheese.

Long Clawson Dairy’s Blue Stilton stole the show at the event, held at Bingley Hall in Staffordshire County Showground on 27-28 June. It marks the cheesemaker’s second win in just three years, after its Shropshire Blue won the title in 2022.

“We are absolutely ecstatic to win Supreme Champion for our delicious Blue Stilton,” said Bill Mathieson, managing director for Long Clawson Dairy. “This victory is like winning an Oscar in the cheese industry.

“Stilton is a national treasure, and we really hope this win will help people reacquaint their love with it because it’s such a fantastic cheese,” he continued. 

The ICDA, which has its roots in Nantwich from 1897, has grown to be the leading cheese and dairy event bringing together buyers and sellers from the dairy industry worldwide, and its stamp of approval for Blue Stilton will be a boon for the cheese, Bill said. “Stilton generally has had quite a tough time in the last few years with lots of imported cheese coming in and it only really being considered as a part of the Christmas cheeseboard, but this win really is support of our campaign to ‘Save our Stilton’.”

Long Clawson’s team of master cheesemakers have more than 200 years of collective experience, and Bill hailed the moment as a proud one for the whole team. “It’s such a feat for a farming cooperative like ours to be recognised for the fantastic skill that goes into our artisanal cheesemaking process,” he said.

Each year, more than 5,500 entries are made for cheese and dairy products in the ICDAs, and this year the team behind the event built on the success of last year’s show with even more entries across the categories.

While Long Clawson won the Supreme Champion Cheese category, Dewlay was named as the reserve for its Tasty Lancashire cheese, which is made to the traditional Lancashire two-day curd recipe.

A new cheesemaker for Suffolk

Hot on the tails of Baron Bigod – Fen Farm’s stellar cheese, which is now recognised globally – a new dairy has launched in Suffolk, releasing its first ever product, Pyghtle.

Maker and Broughton Hall Dairy co-founder, Emily Tydeman (who runs the business with husband Sam) cut her teeth at nearby Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses, and was head cheesemaker until recently, ensuring the quality of production of Suffolk Gold, Suffolk Blue and Suffolk Brie.

Pyghtle is a soft, lactic, melting cheese, made with raw milk from sheep raised on nearby fields, with the name alluding to an old Suffolk word, translated to refer to a small patch of grass enclosed on a farm.

Emily describes it as “sweet” and “gentle” with a rich creaminess from a slow making process which creates a cheese “that is so luxurious”. It’s slightly tangy, getting fudgier and denser with age, before hitting earthy, meaty notes.

Welsh cheesemonger wins Affineur of the Year 2024

Experts from the cheese industry gathered in London recently to judge the hotly contested finals of Affineur of the Year 2024. The competition, organised by the Academy of Cheese, invited affineurs from across Britain to showcase their maturation skills, with Owen Davies of Cardiff-based Ty Caws pipping the others to the post with his take on a Quicke’s Cheddar.

Owen’s innovative method of maturing the cheese in a coal chamber led to a complex and fruity variation on the original. Talking about the win, Owen says, “I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured to receive this prestigious cheese award – it still feels like a wonderful dream! The idea of ageing Quicke’s cheddar in coal was inspired by the rich coal mining history of my hometown. The aim was to create an environment for the cheese to age naturally; enclosing the cheese in coal ensured consistent humidity and temperature.” 

Judge Patricia Michelson, founder of La Fromagerie, added, “Here was a Cheddar that we all know and whose taste is a simple enjoyment of a West Country Cheddar. What transpired by affinage was a complex and fruity cheese, with elements of toasty nut and crisp bacon. If it had been further matured it would just deepen. Here was a Welsh cheese that could not be replicated in any other place and that in my mind, made it special.” 

Now in its third year, the competition has expanded from a single category maturing Cheddar, to encouraging entrants to experiment with Cropwell Bishop Blue Stilton, Fen Farm Dairy’s Baron Bigod, and White Lake Cheese’s Soltice. The cheeses are taken young, and matured as each monger sees fit, with strikingly different results in appearance, texture and flavour. A statement of intent was delivered to judges for each cheese, setting out what the entrants had hoped to achieve, and the final products were sampled for flavour, aroma, texture, appearance and innovation.

Jonny Crickmore, chair of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association and maker of Baron Bigod, says, “Affineur of the Year, in the three years it’s been running, has become more and more popular with more competitors entering the event. It is a positive thing to encourage cheesemongers to be involved in affineuring and influencing cheeses. It gives them the opportunity to mature some of the UK’s best loved cheeses. But mostly it’s a great event which brings people in the industry together to spend time on the subject they love the most.” 

When is the People’s Cheese final taking place?

Following the success of the Great British & Irish Cheddar Challenge last year, The Real Cheese Project has announced plans for People’s Cheese 2024; a new competition set to feature more cheeses, more rounds and more judges.

Created to help the cheese loving public discover the makers and mongers that elevate the British cheese scene, People’s Cheese will focus on the territorials this year.

Round One took place at Chiswick Cheese Market in May, with hundreds of visitors engaging in the judging process to pick their favourite Cheddar, Stilton, Red Leicester, Caerphilly, Cheshire, Double Gloucester, Lancashire, Wensleydale and Dunlop. These heat winners will face the public vote again at the semi-finals in Chiswick on 21st July, before the finalists are announced.

Once again, cheese lovers across the UK will be able to take part in the final, by buying a tasting box of the final four cheeses from participating cheesemongers, before tuning in for a huge online blind tasting on 11th October. Independent cheese shops are being encouraged to get involved by selling the tasting boxes to their customers.

The final will be live streamed from Beesley Farm in Goosnargh, Lancashire – the home of Mrs Kirkham’s – where The Real Cheese Project will be joined by host Marcus Brigstocke and some of the UK’s top cheese experts, guiding viewers through the tasting. Following plenty of cheese chat, inspiring stories, expert insights and obligatory cheese jokes, an online vote will decide this year’s People’s Cheese Champion.

New products from White Lake Cheese

Family-run Somerset dairy, White Lake Cheese, has expanded its range considerably by bringing to market a quintet of new goats’ cheeses.

Equinox is an aromatic, semi-soft cheese washed in Equinox ale from the Glastonbury Brewing Company. It has a creamy, melt-in-the-mouth interior, and punchy rind, and makes a great baking cheese, says the producer.

King of the Castle is White Lake’s take on a Caerphilly, being salty and sweet with a slight squeak, light freshness, and citrussy tang.

Glaston Tile is a firm, fresh, creamy cheese that could be used in place of Feta, while Glaston Brick is a large version, suited to deli counters or foodservice.

Finally, Smo’King is a smoked version of King of the Castle.

Roger Longman of White Lake Cheese, says, “Ever since I introduced our herd of Alpine goats to Bagborough Farm, my aim has been to show something that the French already knew, that goats’ cheeses can be as diverse and interesting as cow’s cheeses, if not more so. That is why we continue to bring new goats’ cheeses to the market of all different types and textures, with each one having its own unique quality.”

Roger says he is especially proud of King of the Castle as it’s based on a cow’s Caerphilly recipe his parents used. “We even had one of their old employees, Rose, come and help us to make sure it was just right.”


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