Quicke's Slow Food Cheddar (page 2 of 2)Home >> Experiences
Malcolm and his crew are busy shovelling the milled curds with their tridents ...
...while another sprinkles salt over the curds. You just can't add salt before the curds are drained as it would kill any bacterial action and stop the acidity from increasing. The salt drains a little more whey out of the already rather dry curds bits.
More salt - 2.5 pounds for 1000 gallons of milk ...
... and then some serious shovelling by Jo Alport and Malcolm Mitchell.
Metallic cheddar forms have been cleaned and lined with fine cheese cloth.
... while the third man ties the cheesecloth on top.
The forms are stacked on top of each other, then squeezed by a giant piston to get dense cheeses and drain off whatever whey was left.
The cheeses are then dipped in hot brine the next day, then covered in lard. Out of 1000 gallons they make about 17 cheeses of 50 pounds each approximately. Each batch bears the production date and a unique color. Two cheeses out of each batch will be tasted at regular intervals to check quality.
Click on the pictures above for three 360° panoramas of the various maturing vaults at Quicke's. There is a rather unique ambience and delicate cheese smell in this temperature controlled rooms - 10°C maximum and 90% relative humidity all year round. Cheeses are stacked up on wooden shelves and left for 12 months or more. Traditional cheddar is not the business to make a quicke buck, as you must work with the quantity of milk your cows are willing to produce and then wait a full year before you can sell.
As the cheese ages, the flavor inside develops and becomes more complex, much like a wine. Cheese really is a noble product where you can taste and infinity of differences in the hands that worked its curds, in the milk he was born from and what the cows have grazed. Unfortunately, a cheese rind is an ideal place for spores, mushrooms and yeasts of all kinds to breed. As the cheese ages, you can see colored spots develop around a single airborne spore that landed there.
The lard offers good protection against yeasts and mushrooms and can be washed. This is not much of a problem.
At the end of the day, English cheesemakers have only two ennemies. The EU bureaucrat, and the cheese mite, and they now have joined forces to drive cheesemakers crazy.
Cheese mites are universally despised by cheesemakers. Since the EU banned a certain chemical that was used to stem the number of mites, cheesmakers are reduced to spray a little ozone over their cheeses. Others rub the cheese rind by hand to obliterate any microscopic holes the mites could use to get in. This doesn't work so well and the mites flourish. There is just no quicke fix. Now the mites even have time to ponder deep philosophical issues:
The cheese-mites asked how the cheese got there,
Here are the remains of a cheese mite banquet, with the rind eaten away one inch thick. You can cut off the damaged rind, but the mites let in air that helps all sorts of unsavory microorganism develop. You won't ever see it in the fine cheeses sold by Quicke's farm, but much goes to waste.
A gentleman showed me an example of a much damaged rind with a hole inside. All of this needs to be carved out before it reaches the shelves. I asked what they do with the damaged cheese Aye, we sell it to a guy. What he does with it is ... umentionable.
... then the cheese is packed and sent off to the clients. Quicke's sells a third of the 500 tons of cheese it makes every year abroad, a third to British supermarkets (Sainsbury, Tesco, Waitrose, Asda) and the rest to independent cheesemongers through a couple wholesalers.
I tasted all of the cheeses made at Quicke's and warmly recommend their Mature, Extra Mature and Vintage Cheddars, all excellent. They also do a very nice smoked Cheddar and one mixed with herbs. I don't mean to cut Mary to the quick, but I really did not like her raw milk 10-month-old Cheddar - too acidic. But it might turn out to be a great cheese in a year's time - who knows? Now don't take my word for it, Quicke's has a large cupboard filled with all sorts of serious cheese awards.
Quicke's farm is located in gorgeous Devon countryside. The buildings bear no relation to Tchernobyl besides their looks.
The church in next-door village Crediton was the seat of the first Christian bishop in England and is one of the highlight of Devon.
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