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We’re back!

Susie is finally back in Dorset where she belongs, and we’ll be in Shaftesbury on Friday, fully loaded with lovely cheeses as usual. It’s also just in time to start the new monthly trip to The Rising Sun in Ludwell on Monday 4th March – excellent cheese and brilliant coffee, a match made in heaven…!

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An update:

Completing the work needed to bring Susie back to the condition she needs to be in has proven to be more difficult than I had expected. At the moment, I’m not sure how long it will take before we can get back on the road, but don’t worry, it will happen! In the meantime, I do still have some cheese, biscuits and accompaniments, so if you would like a cheese delivery, let me know! Hope to see you all soon,

Carolyn

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Vegan vs. Carnivore, Industrial vs. Artisan.

Veganuary, whether you agree with it or not, has been very much in the news and social media, with as many reports damning high-intensity vegetable farming as there are on the perils of the animal-based protein industry. As a cheesemonger, it’s a difficult subject to approach. There are, absolutely, flaws within the dairy industry, but many of those stem from a lack of opportunity to turn ‘waste’ into income in an industry that already carries significant financial risk. The plight of billy goat kids highlighted this in recent years, with the majority being slaughtered and discarded rather than sold for meat. Despite campaigning, it’s still difficult to get hold of goat meat, certainly in this rural area. It’s a vicious circle; without the opportunity to try it, consumers can’t build up a market. Without the market, small retailers can’t take the risk of buying in stock that they can’t count on selling.

It’s hard to point at one thing and say, “if we change this, everything will be better”. Cut out animal products, and there are very real concerns about the impact of arable farming on the quality of the soil that makes up our landscape. On the other hand, the impact of livestock farming at a level to sustain current consumption is equally alarming.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few local cheesemakers, folk who are using milk from their own herds or buying it in from small, local farms. With their focus on producing cheese that’s simply as good as they can make it, they’re working to a model that has more in common with the pre-war industry than it does the mass production adopted by creameries.

No, this isn’t some kind of rose tinted, ‘wasn’t everything wonderful back then’ rant – it was as difficult an industry then, as it is today, and today’s cheesemakers have the advantages of several decades of scientific research to help them understand why a cheese might behave a certain unexpected way, and how to achieve the results they’re looking for. Whilst our Enviromental Health Officers get a lot of bad press, the majority do a good job and are, increasingly, showing that they do understand the peculiarities of artisan food and are willing to work with the industry, not against it. As awful as it is to see dairies such as Errington and Barwhey being persecuted for their craft, we can be thankful, at least, that cases like this do seem to be the exception now, rather than the rule.

That pre-war industry was sustainable. People made cheese when they had milk to do it and because cheese was, and is, a more valuable product than milk, as well as being one that’s a lot easier to transport and sell! Indeed, that’s how many of the classic cheeses we know and love today came about; farmers combining milk from morning and evening milkings (Double Gloucester), or collaborating within a small area to make their herds profitable (Gruyere aop). As a certain Somerset cheesemaker was heard to say – if the price you’re getting for your milk is too low, don’t complain about it, do something else with it to increase its value.

Maybe that’s the one thing we can change to make a big difference – work together, farmers and cheesemakers, retailers and consumers, but without the monoculture, high-impact production that’s so detrimental to our environment and, ultimately, to the quality of the produce. Collaboration, in tandem with moderation.

Make Local, Shop Local, Eat Local.

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All About The Cheese…


We’re well into December now, so it’s time to start talking about the good stuff.
No surprise – I start planning my Christmas cheese well in advance. (I have the very last piece of that stunning one year old Red Leicester tucked away, but there are already more maturing gently, so hopefully it’ll be back in six months or so!)

But what do you get when you have one diner who is staunchly anti-blue, one who can’t eat cows milk cheese and one who’ll only eat cheddar? Not to mention the riot when the truly stinky cheeses come out!

Fear not – The Truckle Truck is here to help!

The first thing to think about is when you’ll be having your cheese.
If you go with tradition and bring out the cheese board after the main meal, your guests will have already tucked into two, three or maybe even four courses. If that’s the case, you can expect your cheeseboard to be nibbled at, rather than devoured.
Keep it simple, with three or four cheeses so everyone can have a bit of everything without fearing a reprise ofthe infamous ‘wafer thin mint’ sketch. Larger pieces of cheese will also stand up to being cut repeatedly, when your diners discover that they could probably enjoy just one more morsel, or maybe two…

If you have your main meal earlier in the day, and serve up the cheeseboard as a light supper, you can go for a few more cheeses to keep your guests entertained as well as satiated until you’ve finished the hard work in the kitchen. You can probably have some of the more unusual cheeses too – the afore-mentioned stinkers (technical term, that) are a great centre piece, or maybe some goat’s gouda with fenugreek or a truffled camembert.
Try and have a mixture of textures of cheese – a hard and smooth, something crumbly, something gooey and something ‘fresh’ (Gruyere, Spenwood, Gorgonzola and Beau Farm’s St Maure-style log, for example) as well as trying to get a balance between sweet, sharp and strong flavours.

Above all, don’t be afraid to ask your friendly cheesemonger for advice, and also for a taste. (You will be the one who’ll have to eat up any leftovers.) We’d all rather you remembered your Christmas cheese for the right reasons!