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Montgomery's Cheddar (page 2 of 2)

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My Christmas article will show you how the best cheddar since King Arthur is made in Somerset, including a 4 minutes video.
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Steven shovels curds into each of the molds, which are garnished with a cloth.

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The molds are covered with a plastic disc for the pressing... 

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... and Steven carts them to the next room for the final stage. 

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Steven turns on the hydraulic press ...

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... and watches the few drops of whey remaing in the cheese ooze out, thinking about his work day about to finish.

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Before leaving the workshop, the cheesemakers give the place a thourough scrub.

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For cheesemaking is a craft bound to scrupulous hygiene. I never saw these guys eat anything while in the room, and every single time they left both cheesemakers and myself scrupulously washed our boots in disinfectant and our hands with a medical soap. Unlike in a restaurant, in cheesemaking sloppy hygiene is not a slow killer.

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Montgomery has no website, no email and doesn't advertise. But he sells all the cheddar he makes - no problem. The farm produces 7000 24kg cheeses a year as well as 1200 2kg cheeses. He sells half his production to Neal's Yard, a fine cheese wholesaler and retailer with shops in the UK and USA. In the office, Nick the secretary showed me a big board with their list of customers. That's our rationing board - we get more orders than we have cheeses available, so unfortunately we have to limit the number of cheese wheels each customer gets. Even so more that we get tons of orders over Christmas for our small cheddars, so we have to save them during the rest of the year to have enough to go by at Christmas. They don't export themselves although Neal's Yard sends about 400 heads of cheese a year to its US shops. But with such a cheese, the world has beaten a path to their doorstep. He doesn't really sell to the supermarkets although Fortnum and Mason, the posh London department store, buys him a couple cheese wheels every month.

I ask why they don't produce more cheese then. James Montgomery answers me The real limiting factor are the number of cows we have and the size of our dairy. See, we only have one 1000-gallon vat, and it's working 7 days a week already. Even if the wizard Merlin doubled my herd overnight, you just can't put 2000 gallons of milk in a 1000 gallon vat.

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But James Montgomery has some plans. Ever since I'm a kid my mom told me that you can't make proper cheese with the milk from Frisian cows. But what she really meant was that you can't make proper cheddar with this milk - and she's right. But with advice from a guy who used to work at Neal's Yard, our biggest client, we developped a washed-rind cheese based on these cows. It is very much like a raclette cheese and is great for melting. I point out that I come from raclette country - the Swiss canton of Valais - and that I'd be much interested to see his cheese. Mr Montgomery becomes a bit pale in the face, rushes out and comes back with a slice of cheese. I try it - delicious. Tastes very much like Fromage à raclette d'alpage, those cheeses made in the summer up in a chalet in the Alps from the milk of cows pasturing in high altitude meadows. Montgomery's version is made from milk of a similar caliber and with a similar recipe - no surprise that his cheese looks like a premium Swiss raclette cheese. I'd have bought it at my local cheesemonger's in Switzerland.

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After a night in the hydraulic press, new cheddars are washed a few times in brine and then coated in a cloth soaked in lard. The cheeses are then left for 12 months to mature. Molds of every color cover the cloth but cannot really damage the cheese crumb unless they enlist the help of cheese mites to dig a hole.

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I left James Montgomery and his friends to their beautiful West Country and returned to Switzerland with a small 2kg cheddar which they sell for Christmas. We sell those trickles at Nealzhyard for Christmas, the man at the farm office had explained.

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Back home I kept the cheese for a further six month, often contemplating the beautiful patterns the molds made on the cloth. Finally, in late December I decided to have it as you saw on the video on the first page.

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Ah, what a cheese! A hard cheese, no doubt, with a delicate nutty taste, worthy of serious Swiss Alpine cheeses.

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Beautiful yellow crumb, probably due to the carotene in the grass on King Arthur's lawn.

If you are in town, give Montgomery's a ring to see if you can come buy and visit the farm. Perhaps they'll even sell you a bit of cheese. Don't leave without checking out King Arthur's hillfort across the road in South Cadbury. And if you're hungry, the place to go is a pub called Camelot, just down from the eponymous ruins and now owned by James Montgomery. Friendly service, decent grub, real ales and serious Somerset cider.


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«If there were such a thing as cheese porn, this would be it.» Snookums 01/01/2010

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If you do this recipe at home please let me know how it worked for you by submitting a comment or send me a picture if you can. Thanks!



74 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Kate
FX, I love your videos...  It is wonderful to finally "meet" the man behind the camera!

I just wish I could reach through the screen and snag a piece of that lovely cheese...  It looks so very...  cheddary and "flaky" and I can just imagine the wonderful flavour. (Really, my mouth is watering!)

You've inspired me to visit my local cheesemonger here in Ottawa and seek out some of this wonderful cheese!

Happy Christmas to you and yours, FX!
  • FX's answer→ Kate I am very glad my little video convinced you to look for this great cheese! Indeed it is very flaky and nutty, great stuff. I still have a piece left from last year and eat a flake here and a flake there as a snack!

  • #3
  • Comment by Alys
A lovely tale of a lovely cheese. I wanted a scoop of the curd just to hear it squeak on my teeth.
  • FX's answer→ Alys, in fact I tasted the fresh curds many times, with the cheesemakers' consent. Great taste!

  • #5
  • Comment by Keroro
I hope sausage makers like hygiene also :)
  • FX's answer→ Keroro, in matters of sausages, if you really like them it's best not to see how they are made!

  • #7
  • Comment by JD
Cheese! Glorious Cheese! Coming from the diary country of the US reading all these articles makes me wish I had imported some from Wisconsin for Christmas!
  • FX's answer→ JD I am sure there must be many great cheese makers in Wisconsin too!

  • #9
  • Comment by Emily
I love your photos!  Please don't ever get carried away with the videos and stop posting them.

A tip for the next time you crack open a cloth-wrapped cheese - at the cheese shop we pull the cloth off before we cut it, and the cheese is A LOT easier to slice.

Thanks again for your wonderful blog!
  • FX's answer→ Emily, I will take the clothes off before slicing next time, it really looked like a crusty old mummy with the pajamas on!

  • #11
  • Comment by Gary V
I’ve never had anyone wish me a gluttonous new year.  I had a good laugh over that!  
  • FX's answer→ And I meant the whole year ought to be gluttonous, not just the New Year's Eve!

Happy Christmas, Francois Xavier!!
I'm a big fan of you, I love both the written posts and the recent videos. Not only the receipes are always fabulous but the way you tell the story and your sense of humor makes it for something special. Thank you for sharing it and being there. Hope you have a great time for this end of the year celebration and a happy new one!!
  • FX's answer→ Laura thanks a lot for your kind words and I will try to improve the humor and storytelling to see photography and video converge!

Mmmm - Montgomery's as well as Keen's cheddar are superb. I *think* one of them (it may have been another local cheese maker) also does a 'cheddar with blue' where the cheddar is allowed to develop a few veins of blue - well worth seeking out.

Great article.  Thanks,

FP
  • FX's answer→ FP yes there are a couple blue veins that crept in following the cheese mites, quite delicious in fact! I am not sure you could do a fully blue cheddar as it is pressed and there is no air inside.

  • #17
  • Comment by Paul Mckenna
What Glastonbury needs is a Poutine shop, all those curds asking for chips and cheap gravy.
Thankyou for showing how Britain is not a desert of taste and quality. We as consumers are oppressed by the supermarkets, we cannot make a quality/cost/origin/cruelty decision.

Merry Christmas to you and all Fxcuisine fans

Paul
  • FX's answer→ Paul I think a poutine shop might work fine in Britain, but for Glastonbury they'd need the Sorcerer's Poutine Cauldron to make a real hit!

Beautiful looking cheese there.  I've seen on tv how the process is done but to actually be there, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds, and actually talking to the workers - that's what brings true understanding of cheesemaking.

Merry Christmas to all!
  • FX's answer→ Nate, yes indeed, there is a humid air reeking sweet milk, very atmospheric, and the men at work in silence is a beautiful show.

Thanks for showing us how this marvelous cheese is made! I'd love to taste this unpasturized Cheddar! "The best of France and England..." ;-P....

Cheers and Merry christmas!

Rosa
  • FX's answer→ Rosa, I think one of the other commentators on this article runs a British cheese shop near Zurich that sells it. Otherwise they had some really good cheddar at Globus before Christmas!

  • #23
  • Comment by chef4cook
FYI Francois,
Baring access to a double handled knife with which to cut cheese, when using a chefs knife I always use a rolled up kitchen towel for leverage on the sharp end so I do not cut my hand should it slip off the blade tip.
I love cheese of all kinds. Cheddar is one of my favorites. My favorite English cheese would have to be Stilton though. I actually make a very nice Stilton wafer which I serve with filet mignon but, I have also used Cheddar in place of the Stilton for the wafers and been very pleased.
  • FX's answer→ Chef4cook, thanks for the tip, I need a longer knife. Actually I thought about using my huge salmon knife but with a cloth it would have been simpler. Stilton is definitely great!

  • #25
  • Comment by recuay
Your videos aren't bad, but I really like the photo ones much more. I can choose my own tempo, I have time to think about things and enjoy your humour, go back and forth as I wish etc. There is something very special in a well shot and choosen photo, it can really catch the moment while in a video everything pasts in hurry and leaves not much space for thoughts and atmosphere to build. So I really hope you don't complitely give up photo articles! Your text and photos are simply too good for it and together a real piece of art!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks, you are right that photos are unique, but I need to move forward with this and video seems to be the way ahead! But I'll continue to post photo articles as well.

  • #27
  • Comment by that other FX
J'ai craint pour tes doigts, watching you cut that beautiful cheddar. Now I want some!

Bonne année à tous.
  • FX's answer→ Salut Chef FX, mes doigts sont encore tous là pour 2009!

Perfect, as ever. François, I think your first book should be just about cheese-- all the way to from cow to fondue. I loved the video, and am glad you left in the entire valiant struggle between the Cheddar and the Knife! You look and sound great in the video (and that's a super portrait of your beaming face about the vat of curds!). A lovely Xmas gift from FX!
  • FX's answer→ Maria, thanks, I thought it would be a cowardly pity for me to remove the knifefight I had with the cheese just because it was a bit long winded, after all I don't cut Cheddar truckles every day! As for my portrait since I always need to enlist somebody's help to take my picture and am rarely pleased with the result.

I have enjoyed a lot your article because last week I was in the West Country and I plan to go to Glastombury with the same mission but I had the flu and I couldn't go, so It's wonderfull to come to visit you and see this wonderfull article.Have a Goood Christmas.
  • FX's answer→ Cris, I am glad to hear my article helped you catch back on that missed trip!

FX - Thanks for the video and the info about James Montgomery's farmhouse cheddar. I was able to track down a purveyor in the USA and have ordered some for my husband (a native of the UK), and me to taste for ourselves.  Can't wait to try it. Ain't life grand? A very Merry Christmas to you.

~Demelza
  • FX's answer→ Great stuff, I hope your husband liked this most British Christmas gift!

  • #35
  • Comment by Brian
Joyeux Noel, FX, and thanks for another year of inspiring and mouthwatering posts! (Also I'd like to add my voice to Emily's and say please keep up the photos.)
  • FX's answer→ Brian I don't think I'll ever really stop taking pictures of food, but really intend to make better videos!

  • #37
  • Comment by Joanna
Happy Christmas to you too!  I am sure it was just a typo but the cheeses are called truckles not trickles, and english people call their mothers 'Mum' not "Mom" which is the American spelling, but I am being a pedant here!

Great photos, wonderful cheese. We love good cheddar and Neals Yard is one of the most reliable suppliers of quality artisan cheese in England as I know you know.  I know Keens cheddar but not Montgomerys so will have to track some down. I went to Cheltenham farmers market last week and had the most wonderful baked goat cheese cheese cake from Windrush Valley Goat cheese dairy and some truly umami happy fennel sausages from Trealy sausages who are based in Monmouthshire. I have just discovered these markets, I am a bit slow to catch on. Recommend you try both on your next trip. You don't need to print this, it looks a bit like advertising doesn't it? It's not meant to be.
Best wishes. Joanna   
  • FX's answer→ I lvoe farmers' markets, they need all the publicity they can get! Thanks for the tip.

  • #39
  • Comment by Luke
Might I suggest a cello C string to saw through that cheese? It's really quite a versatile tool, from making music, to sawing through cheese, to cutting clay, to scragging people. Unless, of course, that cheese was as hard as stone, in which case a band saw might be in order.

In any event, beyond being a typically wonderful article (the video was an extra nice touch), it's sure to be a really handy one. I'm actually thinking of visiting the UK some time soonish (mostly to nick some Lathyrus linifolius seeds), so I'll definitely bear this article in mind. A proper British cheddar beats the living hell out of even the finest American cheddars, so I can only imagine that a top-quality unpasteurized vintage British cheddar one would be caseous heaven.
  • FX's answer→ Luke, I think the cello C string would have worked really well if the order of business was to cut my fingers off! Hope you get your claws on this cheese though!

What a lovely cheese! Wishing you Happy Holidays from all of us at Foodista.com
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot!

  • #43
  • Comment by Marcello
I am a Gorgonzola or a Stilton guy, I am open to try Cheddar. After reading this article How can I resist.
  • FX's answer→ Marcello, indeed and why not have all three, after all, the world is there for the taking!

Cheese that beautiful should be savored a very long time in the mouth.  I would only serve it with the simplest garnishes - perhaps a sliced apple or a crust of only the best baguette.

I love living vicariously through your culinary travels!

Buon Natale...
Chiffonade
<3
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Chiffonade, fortunately the calories don't pass on vicariously!

Great article. I'm eating his great cheese while I write this. Amazingly it is available in the small Belgian town of Turnhout. The shop buys it from a wholesaler in the fresh market in Rungis near Paris. It is also available in a shop in Hasselt.
  • FX's answer→ Jozef, great stuff that you could find this cheese in Belgium, definitely a proper cheese shop.

  • #49
  • Comment by Allan
FX,

After seeing your tours of several cheesemakers, I have become more interested in what makes 1 type of cheese different from another.  They all seem to be made with the same steps.  What makes cheddar cheddar?  Is it the pressing, the type of rennet used, or does it all have to do with the milk and cows?

Thanks and continue the great articles.
  • FX's answer→ Allan whereas the milk makes a world of difference between two cheeses of the same type, the reason why Cheddar is Cheddar is the way they work the curds, then shred them, then press them in the hydraulic press, as well as the temperature and time of cooking the curds in the whey.

  • #51
  • Comment by Donna Young
Loved that post, FX. I was wondering, is there a Swiss equivalent to cheddar cheese? Just wondering...
Best Wishes & Happy New Year!
  • FX's answer→ Donna I don't know of any Swiss cheese that is really pressed, but what do I know, perhaps our Sbrinz might be, but it looks like a rough Parmesan. Your best best is an aged 3-years-old Gruyere. I think it beats Cheddar in fact!

Whoa! Those are great pictures of cheese being made. Tons of cheese. :) Amazing!!!
  • FX's answer→ Glad you liked it Juliet!

Hey there, FX- We received a pound of Montgomery Farmhouse cheddar in the mail today.  We ordered it from a US-based outfit called Zingerman's, highly praised by the acclaimed American chef, Mario Batali.  The color was the beautiful golden you showed, but it was not a hard cheese at all; in fact, surprisingly creamy, with a very delicate crumb. My husband, who is from England, said he could taste the grass the cows fed on.  Having never been to England myself, I can not confirm his statement. I might compare it to a prosciutto di Parma, where the hanging hams must be kissed by the scent from the breeze of the violets that grow on the hills surrounding the factory.  The cheese was delicious. The price, however, was an extravagance: $50 USD for the cheese and shipping.  Just wondering if I've been robbed?
  • FX's answer→ Demelza, proper cheese is priceless, if it bought you an hour of bliss, you had your money's worth!

I have a nephew who is a cheddar afficianado. I was lucky enough to find a dealer here in US, and sent him an order shipped to him.
He was ecstatic. Thak you for your continuing suggestions, marvelous pictorals, and those "secret" ingredients and techniques that turn ordinary into extraordinary. jc
  • FX's answer→ Joel, I am glad to hear you managed to find this for your nephew! What a great uncle he has!

Hey there,I love your photos!Beautiful looking cheese there.
Thanks your great site.
Have a nice day!
  • FX's answer→ Glad you liked the pics!

Another great article Francois and on a subject close to my heart! Someone above asked about a blue cheddar, it is generally Montgomery's large truckles that can develop some natural blue veins close to the surface. I would say the large 24 Kg cheeses are superior to the 2Kg ones.

Another fantastic cheddar you should try is Lincolnshire Poacher Vintage, a 2 year + mature cheddar, not from the West Country but from the east coast of England. like Montgomery's it's made on the farm with un-pasteurised milk from Tim & Simon Jones' own cows.

keep up the good work, and a Happy New Year!
  • FX's answer→ Mike, yes there were in fact a couple blue veins in my truckle, but they might be from any cousin of Penicillium Roquefortii, some of which are not really reputable... But it tasted great. Next year I'll buy a big cheese for sure. Thanks and Happy 2009!

Dear Francois,

Thanks for a year full of adventures, trips and enlightenment. Looking forward to more in 2009!

Happy New Year!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot Cynthia, and all the best for 2009 for you too!

When you took the photos, did you ask them to say "cheeeese!"? :-D
  • FX's answer→ That's a good one! In fact no, if you tell people to smile they never take anything but the most dreadfully artificial stance. The only way to go is to engage the gentlemen on the pictures in conversation and snap away as they start reacting to what you say.

  • #67
  • Comment by jay furman
As a resident of Wisconsin, I began to salivate almost to the point of drooling at the large blocks of Cheddar in this presentation of Unpasteurized cheese making. With a little mustard, rye bread and mug of stealthy Ale one could start a fine afternoon of knoshing at the finest.  Time for me to head West to Green County Wisconsin, lot's of Swiss Cheesemakers still stirring, draining and creating. Bon Frumage to every good person.
  • FX's answer→ Jay, hold on for my next article about a lot more British Cheeses!

  • #69
  • Comment by Katrine Ellingsen
Aahh this brings back memories of our visit to London and buying a big chunk of Montgomery cheddar from Neal's Yard Dairy in Convent Garden.  we brought it back to our flat and ate the lot!  Your blog is great and I will be back often.
  • FX's answer→ Katrine, my next article will indeed by about Neal's Yard Dairy in London!

  • #71
  • Comment by Cheddar Cheese
That was a wonderful stroll! Thanks.......
  • #72
  • Comment by Tami
I'm looking for Montgomery Cheddar English cheese for my grandfather.  where on the website can I order this, or is there a near store in the Vallejo, California area.
  • FX's answer→ You need to contact Neal's Yard Dairy.

Very interesting. We'd love to try making our own cheese at some point!

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