Cheese News: What’s happening in the world of cheese in spring 2024?

07 May 2024, 07:00 AM
  • Our round up of the cheese and dairy stories you need to know
Cheese News: What’s happening in the world of cheese in spring 2024?

Clawson launches new range of truckle cheeses

Clawson Farms, best known for the production of Stilton, has brought to market a selection of innovative new wax truckles, drawing on its 100-year history in cheesemaking

The dairy says it hopes the range will disrupt what is an increasingly competitive category by combining characterful branding with much-loved flavour combinations with a twist, drawing on both sweet and savoury tastes, and using its premium Cheddars, Red Leicesters and Wensleydales as a base.

The newcomers include Truffle Seeker (a truffle and sweet honey Cheddar represented on the pack by foraging pig Fred), and Dormouse’s Delight (Wensleydale with cranberry, elderflower and orange marmalade, featuring mascot Dorothea on the labelling).

All truckles are in a 200g format, apart from Truffle Seeker, at 150g.

“Our research shows there is a real desire for unusual flavours and distinct branding for truckle cheeses, particularly in delis and farm shops,” says managing director Bill Matthieson.

“We are bringing to the sector something original in terms of taste, and premium in terms of quality. Traditionally truckles have been bought for special occasions and gifts, but our insight shows that more people are now buying them as a treat for themselves.”

Join the Affineur of the Year 2024 finals

The Academy of Cheese and cheesemaker Quicke’s are delighted to bring back the hotly contested Affineur of the Year competition for 2024. 

The competition (the first of its kind when launched in 2021) was originally designed to recognise and celebrate the art of maturing cheese. In its inaugural year, 10 truckles of Quicke’s Cheddar were sent to cheesemongers and makers across the UK, where they were carefully looked after until April 2022, when a panel of industry experts selected the cream of the crop, awarding Perry Wakeman of Rennet & Rind the grand prize.

Perry, who is standing down from the competition this year, went on to win a second time in 2023.

In 2024, four cheeses, matured over the course of a year by affineurs, will be tasted by the judging panel – Quicke’s Mature, Cropwell Bishop Stilton, Baron Bigod from Fen Farm Dairy, and Solstice from White Lake.

In order to moderate the competition, the line-up of cheesemongers and makers have already submitted a statement of intent for their entries (what they plan to achieve and how they hope to get there), with each entrant required to provide a record of their techniques on judging day – an event open to the trade and public, being held at The China Exchange on 12th June.

Britain’s Supreme Champion cheese named

Snowdrop, a mould-ripened fresh cheese made by Cote Hill in Lincolnshire, was recently named Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards.

The cheese, which was launched just over a year ago, beat 600 other varieties to the top spot. It is named in honour of Cynthia Davenport, who started the dairy at Cote Hill – snowdrops being her favourite flower – and produced with raw cow’s milk, presenting in a similar style to a French St Felicien.

Producer, Mary Davenport, says, “As a small producer, we are delighted and honoured to be recognised with this prestigious award. It was a huge surprise, and totally unexpected, as winning Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards is a cheesemaker’s dream.”

The Real Cheese Project launches

James and Nicola Grant of No2 Pound Street, and Sam and Amy Brice of Freshly Ground PR, have come together to launch The Real Cheese Project – with a mandate to champion artisanal British cheese, while encouraging shoppers to buy artisan-made over industrial.

The Real Cheese Project will work collaboratively across the speciality cheese world to help showcase the people and products that make it so special. Consumers will be able to join the project from September, with members receiving a box each month containing a cheese newspaper, and a wedge of cheese with a story to tell, supported by an online tasting session.

James says, “Britain loves its cheese, but most people aren’t aware of what’s on offer away from industrially produced staples that they’re used to, and the good that small dairy farms are doing for our planet. There’s a huge story to tell here, starting with healthy soil, but encompassing so many other pressing issues of today, including ethical dairy farming, sustainable land management, and technological advances to reduce emissions. We’re here to tell these stories, with lots of incredible cheese to eat along the way.”

Sam adds, “With over 1,000 artisan cheeses to choose from in Britain, we’d love to see more consumers seeking out something new from independent cheese shops. Real cheese brings a lot of joy as an end product, but there’s so much that lies behind each clothbound truckle and delicate mould-ripened cheese, from handmade techniques and local milk, through to biodiverse farmland, farming families, local economies and our food heritage.”

A donation of 5% of all profits will go into a Real Cheese support fund, to be donated to initiatives that protect, develop and progress the production of artisan cheese in Britain.

Beyond its own channels, The Real Cheese Project will campaign for artisan cheese through independent research, surveys and PR activities, including collaboration with other organisations in the industry.

Snowdonia Cheese Co unveils new look

Snowdonia Cheese Co, known for its bestselling range of truckle cheeses, from Black Bomber to Rock Star, has just unveiled a brand refresh – its first since 2018.

Significant investment has been ploughed into the project, which used extensive consumer research to understand how the cheesemaker could meet the needs of existing and fuuture customers.

The rebrand elevates the company’s range, focusing on its core pillars of ‘family’, ‘product’, ‘place’ and ‘people’.

In addition to shortening the brand name (from Snowdonia Cheese Company), a new logo elevates the significance of the ‘place’ behind the cheeses. A mountain range symbolises Snowdonia Cheese Co’s deep roots in the North Wales landscape, windblown trees anchor the brand to the wilderness, and a traditional farmhouse embodies the beginning of the business, in a nod to the place where the cheese’s founders (John and Richard) lived as fourth generation dairy farmers.
There is a new colour palette too. Slate Blue, in homage to the rich heritage of slate mining in North Wales, and Summit Gold, evoking the sunrises and sunsets that light up the region’s dark skies.

Village Maid Cheese takes on production of Barkham Blue

The founders of Village Maid Cheese say they are very happy to be able to secure the continued future of Barkham Blue cheese, having taken on production from Two Hoots.

Anne and Andy Wigmore set up Village Maid nearly four decades ago, and have expanded the business considerably, starting with Pecorino-style Spenwood, and adding varieties such as Waterloo and the eponymous Wigmore.

Barkham Blue was, until recently, made close to Village Maid’s Berkshire base by Anne’s cousin Sandy Rose and husband Andy. “They set up in their garden too,” says Anne, “inspired by what we were doing, so locally we had a really good combination between us. Their two children are now in their 30s and didn’t want to take over the business, so they were going to sell it. We didn’t want it to go out of the family so thought we’d just go for it and take it on ourselves!”

A dedicated area of Village Maid’s cheesemaking premises has been sectioned off to make Barkham Blue, with the business recently granted permission to build a separate ‘blue dairy’, which they hope will be up-and-running before Christmas.

It’s Anne’s hope that they will ramp up production, and bring the cheese to a larger audience. “Barkham Blue has a huge following locally as well as nationally and we’ve been able to pick up some different customers who weren’t able to get hold of it, which is great. There’s a huge demand for the cheese.”

When the blue dairy is established, Anne says she’d like to venture into making other blue cheeses in the future too. “I was always keen on Sandy making a blue sheep’s milk cheese,” she says. “I did get her to make some, and it was lovely, but she didn’t carry on with it. That’s something we might possibly make if we can get enough sheep’s milk. We’re struggling locally with that at the moment.”

Made with Guernsey milk, Barkham Blue has, Anne says, “A terrific creamy texture and bright colour which is more enhanced with the summer milk. It’s not too strong and we try not to make it too salty either. We’ve made over a dozen batches of it now…we’re always tweaking and improving.”

Fledgling cheesemaker begins commercial production

Mat Lloyd never set out to be a cheesemaker. But since being gifted a £4.99 cheese kit four years ago, he hasn’t looked back, and this month he’s due to open his own, small commercial cheesemaking kitchen – The Rennet Works.

“I just really got quite involved with the process,” Mat says of his journey. “I enjoyed the science of making cheese and began making quite an array of cheeses. Friends and family were really enjoying them, and they coerced me into entering into the International Cheese and Dairy Awards last year at Stafford. I did it on a bit of a whim, thinking ‘they’re never going to give me anything’, and I came away with two awards!”

Mat won a Gold in the Best Semi-Soft Cheese with Flavours category for his Pepper Devil, and International Novice. “I was completely bowled over, to be honest,” he says. 

Since then Mat has been honing his skills, developing an outbuilding into commercial premises under the guidance of his local council in Shropshire, and taking a sustainability course at Harper Adams, which is carrying out his pathogen and shelf-life testing.

“It’s been a long journey, but I’m excited about going live with the manufacturing properly,” Mat says. His products, made with locally sourced Friesian and Jersey mix milk, will initially be available in a few local delis, and his milk supplier’s vending machine, with short run availability to interested independent retailers around Shropshire and neighbouring counties.

“The next part of the journey will be going down the bespoke route, making cheeses to order for people,” he adds.

The initial range will include The Rennet Works’ halloumi, the ICDA-winning Pepper Devil, and new cheese Templar.

Pepper Devil is a small, hung, semi-soft cheese, loosely based around a Swiss Belper Knoll. Matured for four to five weeks it is infused with garlic and encrusted with pepper. 

While Templar has its roots in a German butterkase. “It like a buttery Gouda,” explains Mat. “It’s a butter washed curd that’s lightly smoked over applewood and stencilled. It melts in the mouth, and is really good on grilled sandwiches. A very nice all-round cheese. The Germans call it a ‘beer cheese’ as they put it on the bars to snack on.”

Find The Rennet Works on social media to discover more about Mat’s cheeses or to enquire about small run or bespoke orders.


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