Oh boy oh boy. Summer in the cheese making business really is a whirlwind. There are cheese shows and cheese competitions, cheese exhibitions, cheese weeks, it’s never ending. We at Keens have been exhibiting and tasting, selling and showing, competing and winning (big!) every weekend since July. To be honest a couple of us are still exhibiting over in Bra, Italy with the lovely folks over at Slow Food so for James and George the show still goes on, however I thought it about time I blogged a little blog to let all of you know that we are still here, still talking to you and haven’t lost heart in this whole social media business.
Although, as much as I personally love Facebook and Twitter you just cannot beat getting out and meeting people, I love exhibiting, both to trade
and public, I love it when somebody tries our cheese for the first time and absolutely love it, and I love it when somebody tries our cheese for the first time and it really isn’t for them, the faces people pull are hilarious (honestly, we don’t mind if it’s not your cup of tea, the cheese business would be very bland if we all liked the same cheeses).
My favourite quote of the year has to be from a little girl who was probably about 10, we were at the Mid Somerset Show and she looked me in the eye and said ‘Why are you here, you sell cheese and this is a farming show.’ Actually, I’m not sure if it was what she said or if it was her mums horrified reaction that made it most memorable.
It’s the competition side I really want to shout from the rooftops about though. This year we won trillions billions millions loads of awards, a full list of them can be found here, but in a nutshell we got 12 Golds, 13 Silvers and 2 Bronze medals, several cups including (and we are so so so happy about this one) UK Supreme Champion Cheese at the Global Cheese Awards.
Remember, we are a small family business, we make only one variety of cheese and so to win as much as we won this year really is quite an accomplishment. At this moment in time I tip my hat to my husband’s ancestors who stuck their heels into the ground and refused to quit the cheese, their stubbornness and determination really has paid off. Thank you.
Did you hear the news last month that apparently a third of primary school children think that cheese comes from plants? My husband wishes
that were true because it sure would make his life a lot easier.
Let us just put the record straight, cheese does not come from plants it is made from milk, and that milk comes from cows, we will talk about how a cow produces milk one day in a separate post but today we want to talk to you a little about that milk stuff.
Milk. Such a simple product. It sits in supermarket shelves in neat little rows, there is no need to surround it in pomp and circumstance to sell it, we all know it’s delicious, we all know its health benefits and we already know that it is so versatile in the kitchen. But what we don’t all know is how much effort goes into making milk fit for cheese (or a king, but in our world cheese comes first!).
Because we produce an artisan cheese that is produced by an artisan cheese maker using traditional ingredients and traditional methods we need to try as hard as we can to make sure our milk is as consistent as possible. There are options, we could add all kinds of stuff to our recipe, but that would go against the grain of our entire existence. So we need to focus on our milk, and boy can we face some challenges.
Firstly, the weather, yes we know farmers are known for complaining about the weather but did you know that when it rains a lot our ladies huddle together under shelter, food being the furthest thing from their mind, and did you know that when it’s really really hot the girlies huddle together in the shade, food being the furthest thing from their mind. Extreme weather does not good milk make.
Secondly, the variations of grasses from field to field. As we all know what goes in has a direct impact on what comes out. I bet if a baby could talk it would tell you if it’s mother had a curry or fruit salad for dinner. The same seed can be put in all the fields however there will still be variations depending on the soil type of a particular field or how long it has been since it was reseeded, for example one field could be full of clover but the next have none. It would be impractical to reseed every acre every year so there needs to be a rotation and this, unfortunately (or fortunately depends on how you view the joy of artisan cheese) leads to inconsistencies in the milk.
Another challenge is of course calving patterns. If we just let the cows do their own thing the milk would be all over the show, managing the herd to ensure a balanced amount of breeding and an even milk profile with a good fat/protein ratio is attained all year round is a full time job. Embarrassing confession coming up here, but before I moved to the country I didn’t even realise that cows needed babies to make milk, I thought they just magically produced it all year round and that was why we all drank cow’s milk, so maybe I shouldn’t be so scathing of the school kids mentioned at the beginning of this article after all.
So, you’d like some advice about entering your cheese into show? No problem at all. We may be old hat at this show business but we also know that not everybody reading this blog are fifth generation cheese makers. Some of you may be newcomers to the business, if that’s you welcome on board the dairy train and read on to find out a little more about entering your produce into show.
While Richard Green of Brue-Valley-Cheddar was with us grading cheese the other day I was lucky enough to ask him if he could impart some of his knowledge about judging so that we could share it with you. He has been judging cheese shows for 36 years so there really isn’t very much he can’t tell you about showing off your cheese.
Firstly, I asked him exactly what it was he and the other independent judges were looking for when judging at an event.
‘Firstly, and most importantly it’s the smell of the cheese, it has to smell right for its class. Then we look at its body and texture, is it smooth enough? Crumbly enough? Should this type of cheese feel grainy? At the same time we are looking at its appearance, considering things like whether or not it should be dipping in the middle or should it have a flat surface, attention to detail is everything here. Last but by far least we are looking for a pleasant taste, it has got to taste nice and not rancid or acidy’.
‘It is essential that you enter the best cheese you’ve got to show.’ was Richard’s response when asked what advice he would offer somebody
entering cheese shows for the first time. ‘it does happen where bad cheeses are entered, sometimes the responsibility for selecting a cheese is passed over to a member of staff who is inexperienced or just not bothered, if you are going to enter only have a trusted person select for you or select yourself. We will always be honest and I have had discreet words with cheese producers in the past who have been thoroughly embarrassed and angry but learnt for future.’
‘Finally, don’t feel intimidated, just take the plunge and enter the show. Many people are discouraged from entering because of the size and the heritage of other entrants, there really is no need. Every single one of your competitors entered for the first time once, they have all lost and won, and the cheese business is probably one of the most friendly businesses you’ll ever come across’.
So there you have it newbies, choose your best product and jump in with both feet. Hope to see you at the World Cheese Awards very soon.
Summer’s here. And that can only mean one thing; Cheese Shows. They come in all shapes and sizes, they range from local to national, and they can be tagged onto other events such as agricultural shows or they can stand alone as events all on their own. The evidence is all over the place that cheese really is big business.
You’ll always find a buzz around the farm when competition time rolls around; in fact, you’ll find the same buzz around most cheese producers during show season when it’s time to put your best produce out there for the world to see (and judge, gulp). We at Keen’s enter a number of shows, and if you sneak a peek at our awards page you’ll see we don’t do too badly. Fingers crossed 2013 brings us a bounty of trophies, awards, recognitions and ribbons to follow suit.
Of course, we can’t molly coddle our cheese enough throughout the year but now is the time a couple of our lucky samples are taken off the shelf and dressed to impress….. Literally! Traditionally truckles entered into show have been ‘dressed’ and a lot of the main shows still request that competition entries are still dressed for show; But how do you dress a cheese I hear you cry.
Firstly, the cloth that the truckle has been maturing inside is carefully peeled away exposing its rind. This is then painstakingly cleaned using a sharp blade to bring out its best side. Once it is all sparkly clean a plastic coat is applied evenly all over to prevent the cheese from drying out and finally a white cotton band is carefully placed around the truckle to complete its pampering preparation.
The white cotton bands were actually once used to keep the cheese in shape, but cheese making has now advanced so
it isn’t essential anymore, however it’s still nice to keep with traditions and as a side it also helps to disguise any blemishes on the cheese surface…. Even Miss World wears foundation you know!Anyway, that’s how we prepare the chosen truckles. In part 2 we’ll impart some of the knowledge we have gained over the years about showing cheese, and speak to a guy who’s been judging at cheese shows for over 30 years who will give you some sound advice about entering your first show.
Slow down, take a second out of your busy day, enjoy some artisan chocolate, or drink some delicious coffee and let us tell you a little about our Slow Food Presidium.
Not everyone has the time to savour every last mouthful of every meal consumed during the course of a week. Some people say that that’s life, it’s fast and it’s furious, you snooze you lose, lunch is for wimps. But we at Keen’s strongly disagree. Everybody has the right to just slow things right down sometimes and enjoy the small stuff in life. And in our world, that small thing is food, and that is why we work in partnership with Slow Food.
Slow Food is the international movement for the defence of and the right to pleasure. Even if you don’t absorb that entire sentence just focus on one word…. pleasure. Food really should be a pleasure. Slow Food are a global, grass roots, non-profit organisation who fight hard to counter the rise of fast (and can we add bland) food, it is their mission to reignite the passion consumers once had for their food and to protect local food traditions and educate about how food choices affect the environment.
That is why we, and two of our fellow cheese makers (Montgomery’s and Westombe), formed one of the first International Presidia projects; Artisan Somerset Cheddar. Between us it is our aim to raise consciousness about the craftsmanship behind our artisan food and to teach our consumers how to recognise quality. We do this through tastings, promotions and education.
If you have an event you’d like us to attend that’s in keeping with the Slow Food philosophy do let us know about it and we’ll see what we can do to help your cause.
I know that Keen’s tastes totally amazing on it’s own, enjoyed after a satisfying meal with friends, however, I think we should give our cheese a companion, many would agree that it has a personality of it’s own so I’ve done a little homework about what the experts out there would say was a match made in heaven for our cloth bound somerset cheddar and the results are pretty mouthwatering I have to say.
There were of course a lot of people saying that the best and most simple match would be a sweet, crispy apple. If you haven’t tried this I urge
you to go out to your local Deli or Farm Shop, buy the sweetest apple they have on offer along with a wedge of Keen’s cheese, find a nice quiet spot and savour the moment. It will be one you will remember.
I also read somewhere (and apologies I can not find the link) that Sake is a great pairing with our cheddar. Now that I have to try.
But here are a few of my other favourites along with links to the experts who kindly donated their taste buds to the cause.
Port – Yes, you read that correctly, Port. Apparently Port becomes increasingly fruity when eaten with a good strong cheddar. I’d like to thank Diana Pittet over at http://cheddarbound.blogspot.co.uk for giving me an excuse to dust off the old Port bottle when it’s not even Christmas.
Rioja – The guys over at www.thekitchn.com described a good cloth bound cheddar with a strong red as ‘Tried and True, like two friends getting married and each elevating the other’ aahhh.
Cabernet, Chianti, IPA’s & Stouts – I hope not all at the same time www.tasteofcheese.ca!!!
Bengali Tiger – I know that this falls into the IPA category mentioned above but I had to love this exact match because within the article we were described as ‘funky’, quotes like that just can not be ignored, here’s the link if you want to know more about pairing beers and cheese http://cheddarbound.blogspot.co.uk/2010_03_01_archive.html.
So there you have it, Keen’s plus some very exciting + 1′s.
Do you have a preference? Anything you’ve tried that I’ve not mentioned here? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.
Have you seen the new Walkers advert? Catchy isn’t it? And isn’t the cheese they use in the closing shot just an absolutely perfect specimen? Well, it would be, because it just happens to be Keen’s.
Walkers are using a Somerset cheese in their Cheese & Onion crisps to help with the authenticity of their flavours. No, our cheese isn’t going to the packets, but we were able to help their cause in raising awareness of how great Somerset Cheese is.
A representative contacted us a short while ago looking to purchase a couple of truckles they could photograph and use as visuals within the campaign (because let’s face it our cheese is a good looking cheese). They then also passed the truckles to their modellers to reproduce and create an entire cheese store, finally they needed some shelving which we delivered to Bristol. During conversations about how we could help we did offer our facilities as a location for them to film however they were too far down the line with plans.
So, just in case you’ve missed it I’ve included the video below. Happy viewing, and keep your eyes open for the cheese store at 0.17 and the closing shot 1.01.
Yes, you are in the right place. This is the new look Keens Cheddar Website, born out of a desire for us to reach out to our customers old and new and welcome you into our dairy. We promise you though that although there are changes with the way we interact with you, some might say ‘the modern way’, our award winning tradition farmhouse cheddar is still being made the same way it always has been.
We’ll be updating our website regularly to keep you informed of everything that’s happening around the farm and engaging in general chit chat on Twitter and Facebook, some of the chat will be about cheese, sometimes we might throw in the odd competition, and sometimes there’ll just be good old fashioned fun and trivia. And, because we know some of you are visual types we’ll be updating our Pinterest page regularly with some of the delicious foods people around the world make up using our fabulous cheese as an ingredient. So do like us and follow us and hopefully we’ll get to know all about you along the way.
And of course, any feedback is always welcome so feel free to leave your mark before you leave.