Meet Sam Wilkin, Head Cheesemonger at The Cheese Bar, London and cheese champion via his @cellarmansam alter ego. At the start of the COVID shutdown, Matthew Carver (CEO of The Cheese Bar) learnt that its impact on small dairy farms across the UK was massive - and mostly unreported. As small batch producers cut back or stopped production altogether and whole industries closed down (restaurants, bars, hotels, airlines) over 500,000 litres of milk was being poured down the drain every week by small family farms. Matthew was determined to try and save them and the organisations who provide a lifeline to people needing food and support, and assisted by Sam and the team, set up the the Got Milk Fund. Its purpose - to create a bridge between two major food issues facing the UK, the increase in usage of food banks and community kitchens and the surplus of a quality product that was simply being binned. The scheme aims to offer producers a fair market price and in turn support non-profit organisations, charities and food banks across the UK. You can find out more about how the work is continuing and how you can help support the Got Milk Fund here. https://gotmilkfund.bigcartel.com/what-is-the-got-milk-fund
Not content with managing a central London Cheese bar and helping to drive a campaign to save UK dairy farmers, Sam also interviews a diverse range of people involved in every aspect of small batch food production, from sustainability to regenerative farming and food wealth. Designed to raise, discuss and profile key issues as well as introduce you to some of the amazing small batch producers we have in the UK, his interviews are available as podcasts. Finally (phew!) he also finds time to advocate small-batch cheese-makers through a rather funky range of t-shirts, of which 25% of sales go directly to the Got Milk Fund. You can listen to his podcasts, choose a t-shirt perfect for that cheese lover in your life and help support a good cause - check out his
or follow him on Instagram at
July has seen the first tentative re-opening of our restaurants and cafes but they are far from out of danger and their survival now depends on how we support them. Our best independent restaurants help keep us in business, showcasing and adding our products to their menus. Without them, so many of us small independent producers would not exist.
Prior to the COVID shutdown, a huge part of our customer base was the restaurant industry, so the knock on effect to small producers like us was and continues to be huge.
This is a really important time for us with lock-down easing across the UK and as restaurants start to open their doors again, all small-batch producers are beginning to feel a little more positive about the future. The restaurant industry supports such a huge part of the UK supply chain and employment opportunities, that right now it's vital to support them. It's so important to remember that restaurants also serve as a platform for independent brands and suppliers too, showcasing the best of British produce. We are really pleased to have had our cheese selected to be part of the menu on some great restaurants who are cautiously re-opening - We will be highlighting some of our favourites as they begin to open up again after lock-down.
Our cheese was recently sampled in the highest restaurant in London, (the Duck&Waffle at London's Heron Tower). This week we were really pleased to see both our Pitchfork and Gorywdd on the menu of Mark Hix's new restaurant, The Oyster and Fish House in Lyme Regis.
Don't forget that throughout August, you can use the 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme. You can find out who is participating in your local area on the link below.
Find out more
National Picnic month runs throughout July and although a lot of big community events have been cancelled this year, that won't stop us enjoying this great summer tradition. It's generally thought that the concept of 'picnic' was first used in France in the mid-1600's (le pique-nique) meaning someone who bought their own wine when eating out. Up to Victorian times, it was the pursuit of the wealthy but the concept of the picnic crossed social and class boundaries thanks to an increase in people's free time and inspiration from cookery books such as Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management (who advised on how to prepare a picnic for up to 40 people and included:
roast beef, roast chicken, roast duck, meat pies, four dozen cheesecakes, cold plum pudding and three dozen bottles of beer as well as claret, sherry and brandy!)
Today you can be as simple or as decadent as you feel and can we add that if you are planning to celebrate this month with a picnic, then our Perfect Picnic and Perfect Picnic Plus. Selection boxes deliver exceptional cheeses fit for any picnic rug. Just order from our website today!
We have had so much support for our business, not only from our wonderful customers (old and new) but also from those who have shared and recommended our online shop and our story.
Today we wanted to shine the spotlight on The Corona Community and Bristol Food Union. Lock down has been a trying time for many businesses, not just small-batch food producers like us. Both of these organisations have only come about from the COVID19 situation and from themselves being put in tough positions. From mothballing their own businesses, the people involved have created something new. They started platforms to promote and help the interests of the wider community, putting their own situations on hold. By doing this they created something very special, building new platforms for small businesses to shine and a space for the food community to come together and help everyone.
You can find out more at www.bristolfoodmovement.org and
on Instagram @thecoronacommunity
It's a great way to find out about new producers and initiatives and a chance to discover small brands, shop local and online and help to save our fantastic range of British food producers.
We are proud to be one of a small group of traditional cheddar makers who use heritage methods to make proper cheddar with character. We are also one of only three Artisan Somerset Cheddar makers in the Slow Food presidia – a distinction not easily won. So why is cheddar distinct from other cheeses, how did it come about and what makes an artisan cheese artisan?
It is thought that cheese making first began well over 7,000 years ago, around the time sheep were first being domesticated. Thought to be by accident, (milk was stored in animal stomachs, possibly introducing the rennet and the action of curdling), the finer subtleties of different cheeses grew as countries and communities developed their own styles and traditions, influenced by geography, cooking / preserving methods and trade across continents. The origins of Cheddar can certainly be traced back to the area surrounding the village of Cheddar since at least the 15th century. In fact many European cheeses appeared first around the 15th and 16th centuries, from Cheddar, to Gouda and Parmesan. (Our Pitchfork is made just 5 miles from Cheddar!)
Cheese making was often turned to as a solution for dealing with surplus milk (no fridges in the 15th Century!). It is thought that hard cheeses like cheddar were created when cheese makers discovered that pressing fresh curd to squeeze out moisture would make the cheese last longer. The process was further refined until traditional cheddar making as we know it was born. Farmhouses across the region and the UK all created their own unique cheeses, giving us the rich heritage of British cheese we have today.
Traditionally made cheddar saw a short decline around World War Two, when all milk production was taken on by the British Government. This saw a rise in industrialised cheddar, which you will be familiar with - generally what you see in the supermarkets.
Traditional farmhouse cheese making underpins everything we do here in the making of our own Pitchfork Cheddar. It is thanks to support from everyone who seeks out and buys cheeses from us and all the other small batch cheese makers that will help ensure artisan British Cheese survives and will preserve our future cheesemaking culture, so a big thank you to our customers!
Traditional Cheddar and The Slow Food Movement
So what does this mean, what is the The Slow Food Movement and why is our Pitchfork Cheddar so different from the industrialised supermarket cheddars?
To be one of the three cheddar makers in the Slow Food Foundation, Artisan Cheddar Presidium, we have to adhere to a model of agriculture centred on local biodiversity, respecting the land and farming and making cheese in harmony with the environment.
We meet these aims by using organic, unpasteurised milk, provided by a single herd of Holstein-Friesian and Jersey cows. We take into account all the factors of terroir (the grass on which the cows graze and the bacteria in the soil), before gravity (not pumps) transfers the milk from the milking parlour directly to our dairy. Using gravity instead of pumps ensures the milk molecules are not damaged along the way.
The benefits of using organic milk also go beyond supporting local biodiversity. The quality of milk from our cows, (who are pasture fed to meet organic standards) is of a superior quality, containing up to 50% more omega-3 fatty acids (study led by Newcastle University).
As well as following a process that respects our environment, to be part of the slow food movement our process is just that: slow!
From farm to fork, Pitchfork Cheddar is over a year in the making. This is very important in creating the flavours and texture of a traditional cheddar.
Firstly, we use a cheese starter based on local microflora and traditional rennet to create the curds. These are then cut and poured onto a draining table.
We then begin our process of cheddaring, forming the curds into blocks and turning several times over a two hour period. These are then formed into high stacks. This results in curds with a stretchy texture similar to pizza dough. To mix the salt into the curds we use our famous pitchforks, then fill and press into moulds. We cloth-bind our cheddar with lard-soaked muslin cloth and transfer them to our ageing room.
This is where there is the biggest difference between supermarket cheddar and our traditional, handmade Pitchfork Cheddar. During a traditional cheddar’s aging process it develops a rind and time also allows the long, rounded flavours to develop from the unpasteurised milk. The cloth allows moisture to leave, resulting in a concentrated flavour and a firm “body”. Supermarket cheddar is rindless, vacuum packed and uses pasteurised milk, making the results very different.
The broad, round flavours and rich, creamy textures of traditional handmade cheddars are unique and are earned through hard work, skill, and lots of love and care.
We hope you have enjoyed hearing more about us and our dairy and that the next time you cut off a wedge of Pitchfork, you will really taste the flavours that only exist in traditional cheddar.
To taste for yourself buy our pitchfork here
Project name: New Cheddar
The aim of this project has been to start cheddar production at Trethowan's Dairy. The funding has supported the purchase of all new equipment required to produce cheddar, as well the design and build of a chilled cheddar store adjacent to the current dairy. It is part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.