Tag Archives: starter cultures

Culture Vultures: The Cheese Bacteria That You Need

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There are several sights you might expect to see on a visit to a Somerset cheesemakers: blotchy black and white cows grazing jade meadows; grown men wearing hairnets; great hulks of maturing yellow cheddar. But one thing you perhaps don’t figure on stumbling upon is a state-of-the-art laboratory complete with microscopes and canisters of liquid nitrogen.
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Home-Made Stilton

home-made stilton

It’s been a while since I bid a fond farewell to my home-made Cheddar, known as Tooting Gold or E-Colin for short. Anyone who has read this sorry tale before will recall that Colin, despite maturing apparently happily down in my cellar for six months was judged (quite literally, by a judge) to be distinctly below par. It was a disappointing result but hardly surprising, given my complete lack of knowledge about cheese-making when I set out to create him. Dr Frankenstein had nothing on me as I cobbled together moulds, picked off hairs and chased away mites to create my cheese monster. Poor Colin.
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Barber’s Cheese, Starter Cultures and Success with Soufflés

Twice Baked Cheddar Cheese Soufflés Barber's 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar

Contrary to what some of my friends think, I do not, alas, lie on a chaise longue all today quaffing free cheese. Partly because eating cheese lying down is a recipe for indigestion but also because mine is not the kind of blog that gets inundated with freebies. Which is fine by me, as a large part of the fun of it is deciding what cheese to try next.

Recently, however, I got invited to the Good Food Show by the cheddar chaps at Barber’s in Somerset and didn’t hesitate to accept; partly because it seemed free cheese might finally be in the offing, partly because it meant twelve hours on my own without having to attend to anyone’s toileting or answer questions about slugs, but mainly because I had recently found out that Barber’s are the sole guardians of Britain’s traditional starter cultures. For a cheese geek like me, it was an offer too good to turn down.
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Stichelton

Stichelton is one of those cheeses that gets talked about a lot in cheese-world but it’s fair to say that most people, living sadly in un-cheese-world, won’t know the name (although if they heard it they might stop, ponder and perhaps think ‘Hmm, sounds a bit like another blue cheese…’) Stichelton is a cheese with an interesting genesis. It’s a bit of a rebel cheese; the sort of cheese that would skive off cross-country running and go for a fag instead. But it’s that sad kind of rebel that tried to hang out with its peers but was shunned for being ‘a bit different’:

Here it is, looking rebellious and a bit sulky:

stichelton cheese
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Home-made Feta Cheese (or Fetter Cheese, as it shall be legally known)

So, this Feta sort of started off as halloumi. I found a recipe for halloumi and bought myself a few pints of unpasteurised milk. I was looking forward to some nice squeaky halloumi.

However, as anyone who has followed my previous cheese-making adventures will know, I’m actually not very good at making cheese. I think I’m generally good at concentrating and fine details but the process of cheese-making takes things to a whole new level and seems to turn me into the world’s clumsiest fool. And so it was that, within the first few minutes, I dropped my thermometer and it looked like this:

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Tooting Gold: When Home Cheese-Making Goes Bad

My area of London is quite trendy these days, with artisan producers popping up all over the place. We’ve got micro-breweries, had a flirtation with a wine collective and I can get honey from a lady round the corner. But cheese? Aha – no! There seemed a clear gap in the market for some urban cheese round here. And so my quest to produce a nice tasty cheddar began. I’d even thought of a name – Tooting Gold. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
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Smoked Lincolnshire Poacher

There has been a distinct bias so far on this blog towards cheeses of the English southern counties and semi-soft cheeses and I felt this week I should attempt to redress the balance. So I’ve headed north-east to munch on Lincolnshire Poacher, a hard unpasteurised cheese made from the milk of cows that graze on the chalky pastures of the Lincolnshire Wolds, an area not usually associated with dairy let alone cheese-making.
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