Berkswell is a sheep’s milk cheese made at Ram Hall Farm in Warwickshire, where the Fletcher family have been farming for generations. Berkswell cheese was first made by Sheila Fletcher in 1989, and today her son Stephen and grandson George manage the business and their herd of Friesland sheep. They are working to optimise their milk for raw milk cheesemaking, while Julie Hay, their head cheesemaker, is focusing on developing the make to highlight the cheese’s tender texture and fruity, savoury flavours. We chose batches made in March for this selection because they are exhibiting a range of profiles from sweet and fruity flavours with soft, yielding textures to more salty, savoury wheels.
Hafod is a Cheddar-style cheese made on an organic hill farm in verdant west Wales. The milk from the small herd of sixty-ish Ayrshire cows is ideally suited to cheesemaking in many ways: the cows graze on fields rich with hundreds of species of grasses, herbs, and flowers, and the team milking the cows have adopted the practice of cleaning their teats with fluffy handfuls of fine wood shavings. This is a technique favoured by alpine cheesemakers in Europe for its ability effectively to clean the cows’ skin while preserving the natural diversity of lactic acid bacteria that reside there and inoculate the milk. Back in 2017, the team making Hafod experimented with the production of a trial batch of Cheddar made solely with the natural bacteria in the raw milk - you can hear more in an episode of BBC Radio 4's Food Programme during which our buying team travels to the farm to taste and grade the young cheese.
Baron Bigod is a cheese styled after the French classic Brie de Meaux and, like its French counterpart, features raw milk. Jonny Crickmore, who directs the farm and the cheese business, is adamant that the cheese is made from milk that is still warm from the morning’s milking. In fact, the act of refrigeration alters the microbial balance of raw milk for the worse, as it promotes the growth of cold-loving strains that are often associated with bitter flavours and spoilage. Using unrefrigerated milk captures this raw material in its optimal condition, and the results are evident in the delicious complexity of the finished cheese.