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May 21, 2017 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

A day in the life of a cheese maker

Encouraging the curds to release the whey

The separation process begins

Starting to drain the whey

All ready for the press

A full mould of Apley cheese

Apley cheese in the press

Blocks ready for turning

Curd & whey separating

Measuring the rennet

The whey drained from the curds

Wrekin Blue made from overnight milk

Ironbridge Blue cheese made from overnight milk

Donna’s very first Apley cheese ready for its press lid

Months ago (sorry for my delay) back in November, Deli Donna (of the Apley Delicatessen in Apley Farm Shop) took a day off to spend with Mr Moyden in his Creamery near Market Drayton in Shropshire, to learn more about the art of cheese making. Here’s her wonderfully written report:

A day in the life of a cheese maker

A blaring noise came from my alarm clock at 3.50 am. First stop was the coffee pot!

Having agreed to meet Mr Moyden at 05.20, living nearly an hour’s drive from his creamery, I needed to leave at around 04.20am. Caffeine made 03.50am almost bearable! Having to be early for everything. I set off with the trusty sat nav!

I arrived at the creamery a little after 05.10am and awaited Mr Moyden’s arrival. He soon collected me. I followed in my car to his local milk supplier just a few minutes from his creamery.

We arrived at around 05.30am, Martin soon attached his equipment up to the milk line. At this point he introduced me to the farmer (forgive me I can’t remember his name but his wife was called Kath) I was made to feel very welcome & offered a cup of tea.

I watched as the cows came in to the parlour to be milked. Martin explained why he favoured this particular breed due to the fat & protein content of the milk, making it ideal for his cheeses.

We stayed for the duration of milking with over 70 cows coming & going. Whilst watching & chatting it became very apparent just how much the cows were loved, cared for & treated with a kind hand, even ushering them out was done with kindness. I have to say the cows were very quiet.

Once milking ended, the clean up job commenced. In what seemed like seconds later, the parlour was almost brand new again. You’d never have known just 10 minutes earlier it was covered in cow debris.

While Martin packed up the trailer, Kath showed me the calves they currently had while feeding them milk that had been collected just a few minutes earlier. It was lovely to see them drinking cows’ milk, instead of man-made milk.

We said our goodbyes & made our way back to the Creamery. Once we arrived, we both had a complete outfit change to maintain hygiene.

The milk was pumped out of the trailer containers into the cheese vats. We separated the warm milk that we’d just collected into one vat & the chilled milk (that Martin pumped out of the overnight storage tank) into another. Martin explained this was because we were making a blue cheese & our own Apley Cheshire cheese, so we needed to keep them separate.

So after hand washing, the warm milk (less than an hour old) was in a vat (700 litres I believe). I was given the job of hand stirring it with what I can only describe as a giant takeaway coffee stirrer, to ensure an even heat.

The milk was heated to 30°C & I stirred it by hand for around 30 minutes. When the cheese reached its desired temperature, Martin added the starter culture (known as the ‘heart of the cheese’). I stirred this in. Once absorbed into the warm milk, I stopped stirring & it was left for 45 minutes.

Breakfast brew time, 8.30am

We returned to the milk & starter culture around 09.15am & added the rennet. Again I stirred it in by hand for around 5 minutes. At this time Martin said to leave it to settle, so we moved on to turning & packing up the previous day’s Ironbridge Blues.

Some 45 minutes later we returned to check the rennet had done its job & set the curd. Martin sliced it like a block of butter, a very bizarre thing to see as less than an hour earlier it was the same consistency as milk!

Once the curd had set to the desired consistency, Martin used the curd cutter to create small cubes of curd so we could start the process of separating the curd from the whey. The whey that Martin creates goes off to a local pig farmer to be fed to his pigs.

So at this point it was time to roll my sleeves up & scrub clean before delving full arm deep into the curd to gently help them release more whey. This process took nearly an hour – I don’t mind telling you how back-breaking it was!

So around 12 noon we started to draw the whey off the curd which again was a timely process. All the time the curd is sticking together forming clumps & eventually a solid mass of cheese.

Once the whey had completely drained off, the curd was allowed to rest/set for a further 60 minutes (ish).

So at around 14.00 Martin cut the curd into blocks & we began the cheddaring process, stacking the blocks on the table, turning them before we placed them down.

Lunch time 14.30

15.00 we began the milling, again all by hand. Each chunk that had undergone the cheddaring process was torn up into small chunks, again by hand, which was another painstaking task, especially considering we’d done everything in our power over the previous hours to get it to stick together!

Once the whole vat was shredded, Martin measured out the the amount of salt needed (2%) & again hand sprinkled it on in small batches while we again mixed it into the cheese, handful by handful.

So at around 15.45 the curd was finally ready for the moulds. Our own Apley cheese has a cloth placed into the mould & the mould is filled with the curd. We pressed down the curd & pulled up the cloth, to ensure the top could be covered for the press (it’s an artform I can tell you!)

When the moulds are full, they go into the cheese press one on top of another. The whole process is about trying to extract the whey from the curd. The press extracts further whey, while encouraging the curd to knit back together, making it look like cheese as we know it.

While Martin set the press I helped tidy up. More time is spent ensuring cleanliness than actually making cheese. His creamery is spotless!

So some 13 hours after I left home I began my journey home, thoroughly shattered but full of pride! Having spent the day in the life of an artisan cheese maker, I fully understand why they are so passionate about what they do. I can hand on heart say our Apley cheese is made with love, care & attention to detail.

About the Apley Delicatessen

Donna has managed the Apley Delicatessen counter for the last couple of years. We source our cheeses first from Shropshire & its surrounding counties, then further afield when necessary. Our range includes many international cheeses. Many of our cheeses are also available via our online shop, DeliShop. They’re used right next door in our Creamery Cafe every day. We sell bespoke cheese boxes & cheese hampers all year round. Mr Moyden has just won a gold award for the Apley Cheshire cheese at the 2017 Artisan Cheese Awards (see blog of 13 May).

About Mr Moyden’s Handmade cheeses

“Moyden’s hand made cheeses are made using traditional cheese making techniques which have been tried & tested by countless generations of farmhouse & specialist cheese makers. We make a range of award winning artisan cheeses using the finest raw milk obtained from well kept & contented cows that graze the traditional pastures that are unique to Shropshire. These cheeses are the essence of Shropshire, provenance preserved“.

2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Corinna Hamilton / May 22 2017 10:01 pm

    Fascinating and vividly described

    CX

    Corinna Lady Hamilton of Dalzell, DL

    Betchworth House East

    Betchworth

    Surrey

    RH3 7AE

    01737 843324

    07899 804215

    • Deli Donna / May 28 2017 4:49 pm

      Thank you Lady Hamilton. Deli Donna

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