Give or take a tweak here and there, Parkham Cheddar is made to the same guidelines and recipes today as when we made our very first block back in 1984. Our cheese has become one of the most respected Westcountry Farmhouse Cheddars of them all. But in order to market our cheese as Westcountry Farmhouse, several criteria must be met to give us what is called a ‘Product of Designated Origin’ (or ‘PDO’ for short).
Firstly, the cheese must be made in the Westcountry (that’s Devon, Cornwall, Dorset or Somerset). Secondly, all milk used to make the cheese must be sourced from the Westcountry. Finally, the cheese must be made, or ‘cheddared’, by hand. The PDO status of our cheese is a guarantee to the consumer that our product is genuine. Of course, we think you can tell by the taste.
So how is our cheese made?
We make block cheddar using traditional farmhouse methods. Our hands-on approach gives us full control over the finer points of flavour.
It’s a story of curds and whey, but not the kind you’re thinking.
Once our milk has been pasteurised we pour just enough into our vat to cover the base.
We then add lactic acid forming bacteria to the vat which kick-starts the chemical reactions needed to make cheese. Once added, the rest of the vat is filled with milk.
Next we stir in rennet, a complex of enzymes which helps the milk to set. And because we use microbial rennet, we can guarantee our cheese is suitable for vegetarians.
Once set, the curd from the vat is cut into small chunks about the size of currants using rotating knives.
The temperature of the vat is increased to 40oC over 50 minutes. This cooks the curd. After that, special knives stir the curds and whey until the required firmness is reached.
The curds and whey (whey is the liquid the curds float in) are then transferred to the cooling vats. The whey is drained from the curds and the curds are pulled to one side to drain. We take a lot of care to remove the whey as quickly as possible to preserve the flavour of the curds.
Stacking and Cheddaring
This is the process of draining and firming the curds. This continues until we get the acidity of the cheese just right.
The firm, drained blocks of curds are then cut into tiny pieces for salting. This ensures an even distribution of salt.
Adding a touch of salt to the cheese helps with flavour and is essential in preserving shelf-life.
The salted cheese is then blown into moulds that shape the cheese into 20kg blocks.
The moulds are placed into presses and left overnight. Pressure gradually increases for a well-knitted and drained cheese.
The cheese is then wrapped in a layer of saran film and brown paper before being strapped into wooden slats and left to mature for twelve months.
All cheese is checked and graded at three, six and twelve month intervals and audited by our major customers. Only the highest quality cheese is left to mature to be sold as Farmhouse Cheddar.
Take a look at the video to see our production premises in action and learn more about how our cheese is made.