This year we are celebrating our 40th birthday here at Neal’s Yard Dairy. As part of our celebrations, we are of course celebrating the eclectic group of wonderful cheesemakers and farmers we work with. On reflecting on the past 40 years, we feel so privileged to be part of such an engaged and dedicated community. Our Dairy Diaries blog series brings you a snapshot of what’s happening at some of the farms we work with.
This cheesemaker blog comes from Ben Harris. Ben is known in Neal’s Yard Dairy for being a phenomenal team player. Just last year he pitched up to help us move to our new site in Spa Terminus. If we’re honest, he’s also known just as much for his sharp dressing (that’s what you’ll get for showing up to our parties in black tie!).
A shared history
Ticklemore Cheese dairy has been working with Neal's Yard Dairy from the start. My boss Robin Congdon used to deliver cheese in his 2cv to the original shop on Neal's Street, Shorts Garden. How things have moved on, now we even use refrigerated lorries to deliver the cheese!
I joined the business in 2002, I had had a few varying jobs, but predominantly I was trained as a chef. I worked for many years at The Carved Angel in Dartmouth working under Joyce Molyneux as Sous chef, having left working on my parents dairy farm, looking for a job that was more involved with food.
Three milks, three cheeses
We concentrate on three blue cheeses at the dairy - Devon Blue, made with cows milk from a local cooperative, Beenleigh Blue, made with ewes milk (from Burton Farm Dairy) and Harbourne Blue, made with goats milk (from Dartington Dairy). June was an exciting month for us. Having been producing this seasons Beenleigh Blue since January, (ewes milk cheese) we have nearly made enough. This leads the way for us to make more Harbourne Blue, from the plentiful supply of goats milk and fill in any gaps with our staple Devon Blue.
We have also just had our first Neal's Yard dairy tasting for the year. They normally visit us twice a year, with a small group, to select through various batches of cheese. I'm normally a little apprehensive before they arrive, but it is very rewarding, and we learn a lot from their visits. Plus, we get to go out to grab some food and discuss all that is cheese!
Looking to the future
For several years now, we have been working with Neal's Yard Dairy to create something a little different. Between us, we came up with the idea of maturing both Devon Blue and Beenleigh Blue in a totally different way than we normally do. This collaboration of cheese expertise has resulted in two fantastic additions to our portfolio - Spa Blue and Brunswick Blue. Both of these cheeses are only available through Neal's Yard Dairy. We are very proud to have developed the relationship with the cheesemongers at Neal's Yard Dairy to allow this cheese to have been created.
We are trying to make plenty of cheese in the next few months. We need to look at our stock for the end of the year, for celebrations that are too early to talk of yet. We need to shut down in September, to re-lay our floor. This is tricky to plan around our normal constant production and sales!! It is great to have collaboration from Neal's Yard Dairy and opportunities that they provide to liaise with all their other great cheesemakers, is invaluable.