So whilst my blogging continues I thought a brief tour of some of our local cheeses was in order… We stock over seventy cheeses and out of these an impressive fifteen are made in Norfolk or Suffolk. And in no way are any of these ‘pity purchases’; they are all fantastic in their own right and the fact that they’re made on local farms is just a bonus! Here’s a little snapshot of our selection from Suffolk…
Right on our doorstep is Fen Farm Dairy who produce the brilliant Baron Bigod, a wonderful farmhouse brie, using their raw unpasteurised milk (which is also available to buy from the UK’s first milk vending machine at the farm gate!). Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore are third generation farmers at Fen farm, and have become somewhat local celebrities with their innovation around one of the most basic principle – that the very best food in the world is the simplest, straight from nature to your plate. Baron Bigod is a creamy, white bloomy-rind cheese with farmyard and mushroomy flavours. It is very special in that it can truly be called a farmhouse Brie; made by the farmer, on the farm, using a very traditional Brie-de-Meaux recipe. It’s made in small batches with the milk from their Montbeliarde cows who graze the rich variety of grasses and herbs that grow on land of Stow Fen, an unusual wildlife-rich Basin marsh which is completely unique to the Waveney Valley. Bungay’s very own Brie…how lucky are we!
It’s because of this very special milk that a few years ago The Crickmores were joined by a fellow cheesemaker Julie Cheyney, who relocated to our part of the world to make her cheese ‘St Jude’s’ on the farm. The high protein levels in the raw milk are fundamental to delicate and almost ‘mousse like’ texture of these beautiful little cheeses which have a very thin, delicate rind. Julie is a true professional and cheese enthusiast, and has been kind enough to join us for several tasting days where she tells our customers all about her cheese making process, and wonderful insights into her life as a cheesemaker (she often gets up midnight to go down to the farm and give the curds a stir just as the right moment before returning to her bed!).
Further from Bungay (but not too far!) is another producer – Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses who are based in Coddenham. Katherine and Jason Salisbury began producing cheeses over ten years ago with the milk from their herd of pedigree Guernsey cows. Their Suffolk Gold is aged for twelve weeks, and is a semi hard, creamy cheese with an almost buttery flavour. Their Suffolk Blue is a lightly veined blue cheese which is rich and slightly soft in texture. Both cheeses are made from vegetarian rennet and pasteurised milk, and can vary throughout the year in their appearance and flavour, a natural characteristic of the seasonal changes in the milk throughout the year.
Our final cheese producers are based in Baylham, near Needham Market in the heart of mid Suffolk. Rodwell Farm Dairy have been producing their cheeses for a decade, when Robin and Susan Richards wanted to restore the link between milk production and dairy produce, but the Richards family have been at the farm for over seventy five years! Suffolk Hawkston is loosely based on a crumbly Cheshire style cheese, and is a medium strength with a slight ‘sharpness’ to its flavour. Suffolk Shipcord can be described as more of a cheddar style cheese; the robust texture is a result of the curds and whey being scalded at a high temperature during the cheese making process. Suffolk Shipcord is matured for at least five months and has a fantastic full flavour, but there is also the Suffolk Shipcord Extra Mature which is matured for a full twelve months. Each cheese is made from the unpasteurised milk from the farm’s own dairy herd, and is named after a river meadow on the farm.
It really is very easy to put together a fantastic cheeseboard using only Suffolk cheeses, so next time you pop in to see us don’t forget to take some home with you or ask for a little taste!
So after a rather slack start to my blogging last year, I’m now planning to write more frequently and I thought a good place to start would be to feature some of our fantastic suppliers and tell you a little more about them, why we love them, and why we stock them.
I thought I’d begin with the lovely ladies at Marsh Pig Salami. Jackie and Sarah started producing their brilliantly British cured meats and salamis about three years ago in nearby Claxton – about ten miles from us. After a little taste (#PerksOfTheJob) we were huge fans and immediately started stocking the range, which now includes salamis, chorizo, cured meats, pancetta and jerky.
But what is it that makes their product so superior?!
Marsh Pig was ‘selfishly born out of a personal love of great food’, and after being fed up with all that chewy, sinewy salami on the market (and I hear after a bottle of wine or two!), Jackie and Sarah decided to make their own. They begin with the highest welfare of livestock, always sourced locally and always free range, and then add the finest quality ingredients where necessary to create the most flavoursome and ethical produce. Marsh Pig products are all made by hand and with a lot of love, and this is truly evident in the flavour; typically, a mass produced salami will contain 30-60% fat, compared to just 15% in these salamis, with flavours including fennel, garlic and paprika, red wine and black pepper, and my favourite, garlic and black pepper.
And what I love about the Marsh Pig team is that they’re always diversifying. They launched their ‘Bacon and Pancetta Home Curing Kits’ just before Christmas, which contain step by step instructions and all that you need (‘just add the meat’) to create your own home-cured bacon and pancetta. These literally flew off our shelves as a perfect gift for those foodie types who enjoy their own culinary creating.
Or if you prefer a more in-depth approach into the alchemy and science of turning fresh meat into charcuterie you can now join them over at Marsh Pig HQ for one of their monthly Charcuterie and Smoking Courses; a day long workshop that includes all aspects of the curing processes, as well as a delicious lunch and a whole lot of fun!
There has been a huge rise in the number of producers making charcuterie in the UK over the last few years, but just being British or local isn’t enough – Marsh Pig have it all; the story, the ethics, but most importantly, the flavour. Have a look at their beautiful new website for more details www.marshpig.co.uk and of course, pop some in your basket when you visit us next!