This past month has been a busy one in the fact that my sister Ruth arrived in Moscow for a 10 day visit before we both headed off to volunteer at the Olympics. We were lucky to have been selected as Sport Specific Volunteers for Women’s Match Race Sailing in Weymouth. We were a part of history as this is the only Olympics that Women’s Match Race has or ever will be in. I was a flag person that started the races on the committee boat. Many of you who know me read my daily Olympic diary.
While we were there, Ruth and I were looking for a food related adventure to cap off our holiday. We had the distinct privilege of spending a morning with Jamie Montgomery of Montgomery cheddar in North Cadbury, Somerset. Jamie is a third generation cheese maker who prides himself on making the best unpasteurized cheddar in the UK. We arrived at the farm just in time to see a batch of cheddar begin its life.
The 200 head of Friesian cows spend their days grazing on Camelot Hill where King Arthur is said to have frequented in the eleventh century. Jamie’s cheese making is very traditional as he uses unpasteurized milk and calves rennet to produce an almost perfect cheddar. It may actually be perfect as he was named Champion Cheese Maker of the World this year.
Jamie relates cheese making to wine making as “both require an obsession with detail, struggles with acidity and long careful monitoring of the maturation period”.
When Ruth and I arrived on the early Sunday morning, a batch of cheddar was in the making. The cows had been milked around 5am and the milk was sent directly to the big vat in the cheese room. I usually sits for a couple of hours with the previous night’s milking then a specially formulated culture is added and the vat is heated to 40 degrees Celsius. The rennet is added and the mixture is constantly stirred for 2 hours. During this time there is a change in the acidity and small curds are formed. If you go to this link, the farmers will describe in their videos how traditional cheddar is made.
Spending time at The Manor was a rare treat. to see the production in the making and the vault where the maturing cheddar is housed, to trying some of his newer raclette style cheeses has inspired me to look for an intense course. I must say that the Montgomery Mature Smoked Cheddar is one of the best I have ever tasted. If anyone knows of a good week course somewhere, let me know. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jamie Montgomery is very passionate about the traditional style of producing cheddar. He heads the local farmers the produce in the traditional way as well as giving seminars. He is also well thought of by cheese purveyors in other counties. We visited a few in the area where Stilton is made near Melton Mowbray. This area is also well known for it’s Melton Mowbray Pork Pies. I can attest that these pies are fabulous. Nothing like the ones you get in some of the local markets throughout the rest of the UK. The traditional pies are about the size of your fist, beautiful lardy crust filled with only chopped pork then once baked, they are filled with a pork jelly and left to set. We found a place in Melton that makes mini ones topped with thinks like Stilton, Spicy gooseberries, cranberry chutney and a concoction like Branson Pickles. What a perfect picnic food.
It is surprising what you find in some of the small villages in the UK. Definitely worth exploring.