You may have guessed by now that we love a bit of cheese. I’m actually eating cheese as I write this. I have visited Vineyards around the world to look at wine production and taste the final product, so it seems only apt to do the same with the cheese.
It was this thought that had me picking up the Dream Team 13 at 9am one Monday morning and leaving the jewellery quarter behind for a short time in exchange for the rolling green grasses of Worcester. After packing the team into my relatively small Citroen, we hit the road and about an hour later we were driving down a small country lane. The kind of country lane that would fit right into a horror movie, one of those movies where the city folk take a roadtrip to the country and are never seen again…
A small detour around the Worcester countryside eventually saw us pull up at Lightwood Dairy. An ex-cattle farm with metal chains on the door and a makeshift “Lightwood Cheese” sign… this wasn’t giving us much comfort. Needless to say, we sent Phoebe in first to check the place out. I left the engine on ready to pull away with speed if I heard her scream.
Luckily Haydn (cheesemaker-extraordinare) put us at ease straight away and before we knew it we were all donning wellies and hair nets and delving straight in. The mornings milk delivery had come from a dairy farm in the Cotswolds, and we were shown how it comes packed much like a box of wine only much, much bigger. Haydn explained that it was his preference to use unpasteurised milk as we all stood around a 500 litre vat of the stuff, much like a sort of séance, channelling the spirit of the cows we had for Sunday Lunch the day previous. Before we arrived he had added the appropriate bacteria and natural rennet needed to create the natural blue, add in some extra flavour and separate the curds and the whey.
What you get at this stage is a sort of almost set pannacotta texture. It is at this stage that we are shown how to “cut the curds”, something that I promise is much harder than it looks. Through this process the curds get smaller and smaller, and much firmer. A little wait is needed before we start the moulding so we get shown the maturation room and the fridge and we get our first taste of cheese of the day. The aptly named “Worcester Blue” is beautifully buttery with a touch of sweetness.
By this stage the curds look like freshly popped popcorn and they are ready to be moulded. The moulds have a series of holes to continue draining the whey and the curds are poured in (somewhat inaccurately on my part). As the weight of the curds grows greater, they start to mould themselves together creating little pockets for the blue to grow and the cheese to breath. It’s a long process which started out really fun, and then grew very laborious and pretty hard work. Big respect for Haydn who produces all the cheeses at Lightwood by himself, I don’t think we helped much.
We finished up with a cup of coffee and a tasting of the range. Haydn is making some seriously good cheeses out of a space no bigger than our home under the Snow Hill railway arches. Although, I don’t think we’ll be making any “Arch 13 Cheese” any time soon, maybe we’ll just stick to eating it and serving it!