Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cheese Duties begin: Tavistock and cheese turning

Had to get up early on Saturday in order to prepare for the Tavistock Cheese Festival. The local cheese shop, Country Cheeses, invited artisan cheese producers from all over southwest England to come and promote their wares and offer samples to the eager public over the Bank Holiday Weekend. Ticklemore normally doesn't participate in these promotional events, but the owners of Country Cheeses are friends of Robin, so he agreed to send some cheese and the staff of Ticklemore to participate in this gathering. Nick showed up at the dairy at 8:00am. We grabbed some knives, cutting boards, plastic molds wrapped in gold foil as dummy display cheeses, and off we went in Nick's rickety old Land Rover. We bounced and rattled west across Dartmoor. Dartmoor is a National Park that consists of ten tors (Celtic word for hills,) sweeping views, bronze age cairns, stone circles, stone huts, hill forts, countless other archeological sites, and a high security prison. We raced passed standing stones that went unnoticed by Nick. We had to slam on our brakes to avoid hitting a group of Dartmoor ponies. Apparently these small ponies are seen as vermin. They wander across the moors and live wild like the mustangs of the American west. Occasionally the locals round up a bunch of them for auction. Those that don't find homes meet an unfortunate fate.

After 45 minutes of driving, we arrived on the western side of Dartmoor in the village of Tavistock. It is market day around the huge, stone town hall. The local, Dartmoor granite seems to be the building material of choice. All of the local buildings are constructed of this dark grey stone. The town hall is an impressive Victorian three storey building with a large hall on the second floor. We were escorted to a table at the far end of the room where we set up to offer tastings of Devon Blue (cow's milk), Harbourne Blue (goat's milk), Beenleigh Blue (sheep's milk), and Ticklemore Goat. We didn't have any big, flashy display material, nor leaflet to hand out. Our set-up was pretty basic. Nick grumbled about how he really wanted to leave early to catch the Red Arrows' airshow back at Dartmouth. He's not a fan of these promotional appearances. They can be quite draining, answering the same questions, and being cheerful for many hours. I found it to be quite easy, it was like any busy Saturday at Cowgirl Creamery. The constant stream of cheese fans were happy to try all of our cheeses and then head over to the sales counter to purchase some to take home.

Here is Nick Trant, Ticklemore Cheesemaker offering our cheese to the eager masses. Standing to his right is Kim from Gorwydd Caerphilly.

We were set up with a Green's Cheddar from Glastonbury and Trethowan's Gorwydd (pronounced Gor-with) Caerphilly. Green's cheddar was pretty acidic. I didn't like it. I am very familiar with the caerphilly that Kim and Maugan Trethowan were sampling. Cowgirl sells their cheese. It's a wonderful, traditional Welsh cheese with a bright, lemony flavor, a softer outer layer and a more firm, but moist center. Kim is originally from New Zealand and used to work at Neal's Yard several years ago. She's in charge of maturing the cheeses. Her husband Maugan (Cornish name pronounced Morgan) is the cheese maker. They make their cheese in western Wales on a farm that they share with Maugan's brother Todd. Kim and I hit it off right away. She was really curious about my quest to make cheese at Ticklemore. "Oh, you picked a good one," she said. "I just love all of their cheeses." I couldn't agree more. Funny thing, I had contacted Gorwydd Caerphilly to see if I could spend some time with them this summer. They sent me the kindest rejection letter that I've ever received. No regrets. I'm exactly where I want to be.

I ran into someone I knew at the event. Tom Calver was there, representing Westcombe Dairy. It was great seeing him. He had an impressive display of several wheels of cheddar and Westcombe Red. He was set up with the other two artisan Somerset cheddar producers, Montgomery's and Keen's. I was slightly in awe to be across the way from Steve Bridges, the cheesemaker at Montgomery's cheddar and George Keen of Keen's cheddar.
The cheddar men, Tom, Steve and George.

Comment of the day: "Goo-ah! Thaht's ah luhv-lee cheese!" uttered by a short, portly fellow in a stained, red jersey and blue shorts. I'm still trying to figure out just what "Go-ah" stands for. Is it "Go on!" "God!" "Good!"??? All I know is it's a sound made when you're really happy.
Other phrase I heard repeatedly: "It's a moorish cheese!" In other words, it's a cheese you can't stop eating. You want more of it.
Long day. We left when we ran out of cheese around 3:30.
Villages we passed on the way home via Plymouth: Leg 'o Mutton, and just down the road was Crapstone. Nick says his sister-in-law lives in Middlewallop. I just love English place names.

Saturday evening. My first cheese duties begin! I get to turn the day's cheeses. Fourteen Harbourne Blues were waiting for me in the Making Room. Each cheese gets flipped in its mould so it drains evenly. Its kind of like tucking 'em in bed for the evening. You want to make sure they're comfy and happy. I donned my green rubber wellies (boots,) grabbed a hairnet, chefs pants, a lab coat, an apron and gloves, scrubbed up as if preparing for surgery, an entered the Making Room. The cheeses were set up on a table with a milk can underneath the hole at one end to catch the whey as it runs off of the cheese. I grabbed an empty mould and set it on it's side with the open end away from me. I set the first cheese on it's side so the molds were facing each other. Then I carefully tilted the cheese up and it slipped right into the empty mold. Viola! Turned cheese! I tackled the thirteen others, placed the now empty moulds in the sink to wash in the morning, and locked up for the night. I am officially a member of team Ticklemore.

1 comment:

My Custard Pie said...

I hope you don't mind - I used one of your pics from the Tavistock cheese fest on my blog. I realise I'm so busy eating cheese that I never take pics. I must have met you as talking about the cheese is second only to eating it. Good luck with your cheese odyssey.