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Issue No. 3 - October/November 1998
 
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INSIDE

British Cheese Awards:
The awards explained

Cheese Competitions:
A critical view

Cheese focus:
Ewes' milk Swaledale

Cheese tips:
Taking your cheese on a long journey

Products:
Avoid cheese shortages at Christmas
Christmas orders now being taken



Telephone help and advice line:
020 8940 1944
Monday to Friday
9:30am to 5.30pm
Welcome once again to the Teddington Cheese Wire. Included in this issue is news of the British Cheese Awards which were held at the end of September. We also have pleasure in enclosing our new Cheese List to help you identify the cheeses you have not yet savoured.
Photograph of two Normandy milk maids of the 1900's
Normandy milk maids of the 1900's


No doubt many of you have heard about the extraordinary theft that took place at Manor Farm, North Cadbury in Somerset. James Montgomerys' entire stock of extra mature cheddars, valued in excess 30,000, was stolen. We continue to hope that the cheese will be recovered .

 

At the Teddington Cheese we are busy behind the scenes getting ready for our busiest season, even though the tinsel and Christmas hats stay hidden for another few weeks. If you would like to place an order for Christmas you can do so and we will reserve your cheese, port etc., for you. Your order will then be sent on to you during the Christmas week. We can also organise hampers and cheese selections as gifts, and include a greeting card - no need to leave all your shopping to the last minute. Of course, you don't need to wait for Christmas to enjoy a good cheese!

 

The British Cheese Awards explained

There have long been competitions for onion growing, beer making, quilting, bread baking .......... and cheese making. The most famous gatherings include the Nantwich Show and the Bath and West Show but there are many others all of which attract the local producers along with those who are prepared to travel longer distances to show their cheeses. The majority of these shows are trade shows intended for makers, wholesalers, retailers and the trade press. They ignore all but the keenest from amongst the cheese eating public. However, five years ago a new competition was founded - the British Cheese Awards.

Photogrpah of Mr John Dutton, winner of endless cheese awards during the early 1900's

Mr John Dutton, Swanley Hall, Nantwich 1908
Mr Dutton was renowned for his Cheshire cheese-making in the early 1900's with endless awards at cheese shows in both the north of Endland and London.

The objective of the British Cheese Awards is to raise awareness of cheeses made in Great Britain by bringing together the whole of the cheese industry - makers, maturers, retailers, the trade press and now, significantly, the consumer press. The Awards encompass all cheese making from the smallest producer through to large multi-national companies, from specialist cheeses destined for the tastiest cheese board through to grated cheddar used on the frozen ready meal at your local supermarket.

This year there were some 594 entries divided into sixteen categories, for example, 'Cheshire Cheese'. One cheese in each category is chosen as the overall winner. In addition each category is sub-divided into a number of different classes - for example, 'Traditional White Cheshire', 'Traditional Coloured Cheshire', etc. All cheese is examined and the best ones are awarded a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal. This year 168 cheeses received a medal of which 72 were bronze, 52 silver and 42 gold.

Graphic representing the British cheese awards

Awards are also given for the best Scottish cheese, the best Irish cheese, etc., and from all these winners a Supreme Champion is chosen. The Supreme Champion this year was Celtic Promise - an unpasteurised cows' milk cheese made by John and Patrice Savage at Glynhynod Farm. The cheese is washed in cider and matured by James Aldridge in Godstone, Surrey. It has a firm smooth texture, a sticky pink-brown rind and a musty flavour and aroma.


The Bristish Cheese Awards

STATISTICS

 

Year 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
Number of cheeses entered 296 475 486 506 504
Number of producers 97 137 138 141 156
Number of cheese per category
Fresh young 34 66 49 65 65
Soft white 15 22 28 27 32
Semi-soft 9 14 18 17 22
Cheddar 60 94 87 92 113
Cheshire 20 15 12 16 18
Lancashire 14 13 13 13 14
Red Leicester 10 12 13 12 15
Wensleydale 4 7 8 7 8
The Gloucester's 11 16 13 15 22
Caerphilly 1 8 7 6 12
Other territorials 5 6 3 6 7
Modern British: hard 30 60 57 69 88
Reduced fat 10 15 12 14 21
Blue cheese 22 30 35 34 37
Speciality 34 81 61 82 3
New/ experimental 17 16 34 31 37
Number of each milk type:
Buffalo 0 1 1 3 6
Cow 243 361 340 393 462
Ewe 20 42 44 46 55
Goat 32 72 64 64 69
Unpasteurised 60 126 144 151 187
Vegetarian 253 403 380 453 561
Organic 4 14 14 17 28
Number of cheeses per country
England 252 333 339 364 424
Ireland 0 43 45 41 47
Scotland 24 54 47 47 64
Ulster 3 1 7 3 0
Wales 16 39 48 51 59
Number of medal winners
Bronze 46 70 73 71 72
Silver 35 51 57 54 54
Gold 30 30 33 31 42
           

Cheese focus:
Ewes' milk Swaledale
The Swaledale Cheese Company, Richmond, North Yorkshire, England

Photograph of a Swaledale cheese

Swaledale and other cheeses such as Wensleydale, Cotherstone and Coverdale were introduced into England by monastic orders who settled in the Yorkshire dales after the Norman conquest of 1066. French monks were accustomed to making ewes' milk Roquefort and were encouraged by the invaders, who yearned for foods from their homeland, to move to England and continue their cheese making. Consequently, the first Swaledales were blue cheeses and it has only been over the last century that the Swaledale has become better known as a non-blue cheese. After the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, production moved to farmhouses and later to small dairies.

Over the past hundred years, farming in the dales has moved from sheep to cattle rearing, and the traditional ewes' milk cheese has become a rarity. Our Swaledale is made by David and Mandy Reed. They started cheese making in 1985 and took over the production of Swaledale from Marjorie Longstaff of Harkerside in Upper Swaldale when she retired. Although the majority of their production is from cows milk they do still produce some of the traditional ewes' milk cheese. It is this ewes' milk cheese which we sell. Their farm animals graze on the upland slopes of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in an area which is designated as 'environmentally sensitive' and where farmers are discouraged from using artificial fertilizers.

Swaledale is generally matured for three to four weeks and is enjoyed when mild, moist and creamy. It has a white paste and develops a fine grey moulded rind. We mature our cheeses for a further four to eight weeks to give a drier texture and a more pronounced flavour. In fact, during the 19th century the ewes' milk Swaledale was sometimes kept for 3 to 4 years becoming extremely pungent and served as a great delicacy at the dinner table.

Swaledale can be made successfully throughout the year but cheeses made in late Spring are the most reliable in quality. Each cheese is approximately 2kg in weight, 150mm in diameter, 80mm high and has a fat content of 45%.

 

Photograpg of a ewe with her two lambs

Above: Lambing is in early spring which means that the ewes dry out during the winter months leading to a shortage of ewes' milk cheeses during this period. Full milk production only resumes once lambing is complete.

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- Cheese Tips -
Taking your cheese on a long journey

At the shop we are often asked the best way to take cheese on a long journey, particularly a plane journey. Keep the cheese wrapped in the waxed paper in which we sell it. Never wrap it in cling film or in a plastic bag since this causes the cheese to sweat. Next, loosely over-wrap the cheese in a damp tea towel and place it inside a tupperware box. This will help trap the smell of the cheese. Ensure that the box is only lightly packed. If you are making a long journey include an ice pack in the box but do not allow it to come into direct contact with the cheese. Pack the cheese just before the journey and return it to a cool place as soon as possible after arriving.

CHEESE SHORTAGES DURING CHRISTMAS

The majority of farms that we deal with are small and, in the interest of quality, they use only the milk from their own animals. Unfortunately, the farmers are unable to persuade their animals to produce more milk just because it's Christmas. On the contrary, milk yields of sheep and goats fall dramatically in the winter and return to normal after they have had their lambs and kids in the spring.

All our cheese orders were placed with the farms many months ago. Our small Montgomery truckles are ordered and made in February and our baby Stiltons in August. We cannot order more at the last minute since the farms will have no more to sell.

Soft cheeses require particular care. They are matured ready for sale at Christmas and we hope only to have small amount remaining by the end of Christmas Eve. Since we have thirty different soft cheeses we have to estimate the amount we will need of each.

It is inevitable that many of our cheeses are going to sell out and you may not have your favourites on the Christmas table. Please, please can you take the time to place an order as soon as possible. We hate to disappoint.

Cheese competitions - a critical view

Cheese shows are an ideal forum for cheese makers, cheesemongers and retailers to meet together to discuss the world of cheese. At the Teddington Cheese we find that it gives us an ideal opportunity to make contact with new British and Irish cheese makers and to meet with our regular suppliers.

At each show there is usually a competition and nearly all cheese makers enter their cheese into one show or another during the year. There can be no denying that the cheese maker takes the competition seriously and takes great pleasure in winning a medal or prize. However, most of these same cheese makers would admit to the competition being somewhat of a lottery because:

a. Cheeses vary enormously from one season to another depending on what the animals are being fed on. In the spring they may be grazing in meadows full of spring flowers. At harvest time they may be feeding on stubble left by the harvest and in the winter they may be indoors and fed on silage. Since cheese competitions are held throughout the year, a particular cheese which won a gold medal in the summer may not necessarily be superb in the winter. b. During maturation cheeses gradually dry out and the flavours intensify. There is a balance to be struck between flavour, texture and appearance. One person may prefer a particular cheese to be moist, mild and eaten when young, whilst another may prefer the same cheese to be fuller-flavoured and older. Although some categories of cheese have classes for different ages, cheddar for instance, the majority do not. The maker gambles on the age of cheese to send. c. Personal preferences are a major factor - each cheesemonger in our shop has his or her own favourites. However, it must be said that some cheeses feature on everybody's list of preferences. On some occasions a cheese which may not usually be a favourite will mature to surprise us all. It will, of course, sell out rapidly. Judges are no exception in having personal preferences. d. Many small producers simply do not have the funding to enter many competitions. It is expensive to take time out from their cheese making, to travel to the venue and of course to sacrifice a whole cheese to the tasters. Large producers can afford these costs and can enter cheeses into many categories giving them a greater chance of winning something. e. The conditions at the competition venue can have an influence on the judging. During transportation or a day spent in a warm room some cheeses may suffer more than others and may pass their best before they are judged. This is true of softer lactic cheeses which can degrade quite quickly. However, as a general rule most cheeses will improve as they warm up.

There is no doubt that events such as the British Cheese Awards build up an awareness and appreciation of British cheese. The publicity surrounding an event is invaluable to building and strengthening the position of British cheese in this country and the rest of the world. However, the results of competitions should be kept in perspective and every individual should make up their own mind as to which medals they would award to which cheeses.

Article in response to readers letter:
"Dear Teddington Cheese, I often buy cheese and get together with freinds to enjoy them. We have our own competition where we choose our favourites but we are never able to agree. What makes a competition winning cheese?"
- Mrs Morris, Penrith.

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