How my Shed became the Hub of a Cheese Empire, delivering fabulous Westcountry cheeses to all corners of the land. How I became Bovey Tracey's Leading Shed-Based Virtual Cheesemonger. No, really.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Vindaloo Cheddar

Suddenly we were getting all these emails enquiring about something called 'vindaloo cheddar'. Super-strong, apparently. Naff name, we thought. We also thought 'huh?' - because we don't have anything by that name and have never heard of it. I 'd like to say that cheesemakers have too much taste to use such a terrible name, but there are a few examples that prove me wrong (my lips are sealed) ...

We were also getting more orders than usual for Montgomery's cheddar. Eventually the phone rang. It turned out that those fabled tastemakers Richard and Judy had featured an item about some 'Montgomery's Vindaloo Cheddar' - matured for 24 months. But this proved impossible to track down - and Montgomerys denied all knowledge.

I suspect what we're looking at is Montgomery's cheddar matured on longer by someone like Neals Yard, and it seems likely that some journalist dubbed it 'the vindaloo of cheddars. And the whole thing just spread. I bet Montgomerys are fed up with fielding the phone calls ...

Actually, though, we do have a 24 month matured cheddar, and one with a perfectly sensible name: Quicke's Vintage.

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No more Ashmore

No more Ashmore. Do you see what I did there?

Ok forget it.

We tried to order some Ashmore last week only to find that it is no more. As I understand it, makers Pat and David Doble have retired from cheesemaking. It does sound possible, though, that the recipe has been sold and that Ashmore may Live Again. Hope so, because this cheese - a big award winner at the 2005 British Cheese Awards - is too good to lose ...

Sadly, though, for the time being we've had to take it off the site.

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Bio-degradable packaging

Our use of bubble wrap in packaging up cheese orders had bothered me for some time. So now I'm delighted to announce that we've moved on, and replaced it with a product called Greenfill. This, I have learned, is technically called a 'void fill' product - i.e it fills the gaps in a box and stops things moving around in transit. For us, this matters especially with soft cheese like Brie, which is in danger of getting a bit squashed on its way to the customer.

The common type of void fill is made of polysterene. Greenfill, however, is made from wheat, which means it's completely bio-degradable and could even be composted.

What does it look like? Well, if you recall the snack called Cheesy Wotsits, the answer is ... a bit like that (only a cream colour). It looks quite ok.

Our only slight reservation about Greenfill related to the small amount of moisture which is sometimes produced around the ice pack - which we also include. If the Greenfill gets wet it can turn soft and squishy. We think we've found a way to get around that, but we're asking all customers at the moment for feedback. At the moment - few weeks in - I'd say it doesn't seem like this is going to be a big problem. And it feels great to be sending less plastic out!

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

The lengths we'll go to ...

I had this call from Charlie at Innocent Drinks. They were having a cheese tasting club and could we help? Well, we like what Innocent do, so we didn't want to say no ... despite very short notice and our not having all the cheeses in stock (Charlie was keen to use cheeses from her native Somerset).

We arrived at a list of cheeses (and were one short - but I reckoned we could meet the order if I took a run into Ticklemore Cheese in Totnes to get some Keens Cheddar. That way, we'd have everything we needed and the order could go out the next day. Like I say: time was short!

Into the Figaro and off to Totnes, but got stuck in a big jam halfway, so turned around and went through the lanes (detour 1). If you know Devon lanes you'll know that you really don't want to do this sort of detour - unless you really have to. Several miles of winding narrow lanes later and I'm in Totnes. Into Ticklemore to get the Keens from Sarie, then set off home. Just past the bridge at Hood Manor there's another jam, so its off through the lanes again (detour 2). a few miles further on there's yet another holdup (farm machinery? escaped cows? We'll never know ...) - which ends with us all being waved off down another side road. Detour 3. This is now a detour from a detour, if you see what I mean. By this point I no longer knew where I was, just that I was in the middle of a little convoy of 6 or so cars ... just following the people in front. And that's when my engine stopped.

Courtesy of the guys in the car behind, I got pushed into a farm entrance. When the AA arrived (no street names, no house numbers ...) the verdict was 'dead alternator'. With the AA man charging my battery about three times (charge up ... drive ... car dies ... charge up ... drive ... care dies etc) I eventually got home. This must have been the longest ever return trip from Bovey Tracey to Totnes!

The final cheese list was Somerset Brie, Westcombe Red, Godminster, Montgomery's Cheddar and Quicke's Oak-Smoked Cheddar.

What's missing from the list? You got it - the Keens that had me driving to Totnes in the first place. Quite funny really!

If you want to see the cheese tasting in action, you can have a look at Innocent's blog here.

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