On the face of it, the small East Devon town of Newton St Cyres doesn’t really seem like the sort of place you’d expect to find Cheese Paradise. But look a little closer and nestled in the lush green countryside you’ll find a farm with a difference..
With around 3,000 acres of woodland and pasture, Quicke’s Home Farm is an idyllic destination that is home to some of the greatest clothbound cheddar in all of Britain. Last month we were invited to head over to the farm to enjoy one of their renowned Cheese Tours and find out more about the art of cheesemaking.
How Quicke’s Cheddar Is Made
Our first stop on our guided tour of Home Farm was to the factory itself, where we got an insight into the various processes involved in cheesemaking. Since every one of Quicke’s cheeses are individually crafted, this is a real hands on job. Thankfully, the cheesemakers have over 100 years’ experience between and they make the process of crafting the cheddars look easy. Naturally, hygiene was a top priority, so if you want to look around the factory you’ll have to don the most unflattering hairnet imaginable. But trust us when we say that it’s worth it, because the factory experience is incredibly insightful.
The transformation from milk to cheese beings in Quicke’s Heritage Starters, which were collected from the best cheese dairies in the mid 20th century. These starters have remained unchanged for generations and provide their own unique spectrum of flavours to the finished product. The cheesemakers use a time-honoured cheddaring process, which involves cutting the curds and turning them by hand to extract the moisture. Once cheddared, they mill the cheese, add a little salt and hand-press it into signature round moulds.
If you’re intrigued about this process, you can see the cheesemakers in action in our video above!
The Cheese Cathedral
Next on our itinerary was a visit to the cheese stores, where Quicke’s matures all of its cheeses for anything up to two years in order to bring out their complex flavours. This lofty room is quite impressive to say the least and is fondly dubbed ‘The Cheese Cathedral’ by those whose job it is to ensure that the cheeses are properly matured.
I must admit, when you first walk into the room the aroma is a little bit overpowering (as one might expect in a warehouse full to the brim with vintage cheddars). However, you quickly get accustomed to the scent and it’s fascinating to hear how the staff protect the cheeses from pests and cheese mites.
How to Taste Cheddar Cheese
At this point we were invited to try some of Quicke’s signature cheddars and we were presented with the handy cheese wheel above. For obvious reasons, this was one of the best parts of the tour! I never would have imagined just how complex a cheddar cheese could become as a result of maturing. The Vintage Cheddar had an almost nutty flavour to it, whereas the standard Mature Cheddar was much lighter and creamier.
When the cheese tasting was over, it was time to clear out the cobwebs with a stroll through some of the Home Farm fields.
Meeting The Ladies Behind The Cheese
As Mary Quicke points out – it all starts with the land. The farm’s Devonshire soil and lush grasslands provide its specially bred cows with all the nutrients needed to produce the perfect milk for cheesemaking. We donned our wellies (or inappropriate walking boots, in my case) and received a guided tour of a couple of the fields. The Quicke’s Estate is surprisingly large and we barely saw a fraction of the land during our visit. However, the tour was very insightful and we got to learn about the unique breeding of their cattle (Kiwi Friesian, Swedish Red, Montbeliarde & Jersey Mix!). The cows were also highly inquisitive about the strange new arrivals on their field and many of us got to make some new bovine buddies along the way!
Lunch is Served
When our tour was done it was time to sit back and enjoy a tasty lunch prepared by onsite cafe ‘Cakeadoodledoo’. Naturally, cheese was on the menu and each of us received a plate piled high with a Cheese Plowmans; including a hearty wedge of Quicke’s Mature Cheddar, pickled onions, thick slices of bread and the most delicious chutney.
The cafe is a really lovely addition to the farm. From the outside it appears to be little more than a large kiosk, but on the inside it’s cosy and warm. In true Cakeadoodledoo fashion, there are plenty of yummy treats on display and there are lovely little interior flourishes here and there (I particularly liked the cactuses).
A Must for Cheese Lovers
Our visit to Home Farm was an incredibly fun morning and we leant lots of interesting things about the process of cheesemaking along the way. If you’re a fan of fromage then the tour is worth taking and lunch at Cakeadoodledoo is worth the trip alone! For more information about Quickes Cheese and their tours, check out their website!