I recently took a drive south west to visit the beautiful flat lands of Cheddar, Somerset. A lovely getaway where time was filled with cheese tasting, gorge climbing, cave exploring and reading myths of Tor’s and witches. Rosanna Head
The reason for the visit was to meet the couple behind the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, a family run business in Cheddar. As the editor of south east London blog I am passionate about local, small and artisan businesses and as many of you know, I like to get under the skin of a brand and meet the people who make the magic happen. I was delighted to be invited to interview John and Katherine Spencer, a passionate pair with a lot of knowledge in the time honoured tradition of purveying fine genuine farmhouse cheddar cheese, and proud owners of a cheese shop that has been continuously family run for generations.
The Cheddar Cheese Gorge Company is the only producer of cheddar cheese in the village of Cheddar, who use traditional methods to make cheese. They recently opened up the visitor centre post Covid-19, by appointment only, and the newly designed shop and tasting bar is open and has an improved one-way layout. It’s open from 10am every day and we were really lucky to watch the traditional cheese making process in person and get to taste some cheddar.
We held the interview in one of the store houses, a little chilly, but enamoured to be among the big cheeses that day (excuse the pun!) We talk about how this home grown company has gone from strength to strength, even through Covid-19, how the cheese gets produced and graded, the power of the humid limestone caves in Cheddar Gorge in creating the optimal flavour of cheddar and their plans for the future, oh, and a slightly cheesy love story about how they met 🙂
The cheese they produce, a whole cheese, as you can see in the background of the video, weighs around 26Kg and is matured for up to 24 months in its closely monitored maturing stores. Generally, the older the cheese, the stronger the flavour. The ‘mellow’ cheddars are around six months old. The oldest, ‘vintage’ cheddar is usually around two years old.
After receiving outstanding feedback and popularity for the ‘Isolation Bundles’ during the UK lockdown, the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is launching two brand-new ‘Cheese Your Own’ bundles (from £25) for all cheese lovers. A great choice of traditional British cheeses are available, all very different from one another, yet each delicious in their own right. Choose from:
- Mellow Cheddar – six months old; creamy in texture with a gentle yet still distinctive traditional cheddar taste.
- Extra Mature – is around 15 months old so this cheddar is much stronger in taste. It’s harder in texture too, as expected from a long-matured traditional cheddar.
- Vintage – the oldest cheddar – robust and mighty strong. Matured for more than two years, with a harder, drier texture not dissimilar to Italian Parmesan style cheese. This was my favourite!
- Cave Matured Cheddar is one of a kind – it’s around 12 months old having been matured in the natural caves in Cheddar Gorge. Smooth, creamy yet complex. This in an interesting cheddar and very different from the others in the range which are matured in its own cheese stores.
Alternatively, you can pick from their natural smoked or other flavoured cheeses, flavoured with quality ingredients such as herbs, cider or port (no preservatives or colours used) and matured for five to six months. Allowing the curds and flavours to mature together over time produces a complimentary harmony of flavours rather than a sharp, acidic crash which often happens when ready-to-eat cheddar cheese is blended with flavours and repressed.
You can purchase these bundles whilst visiting the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company’s newly redesigned shop, as well as trying the cheeses at the tasting bar before you choose. Also, whilst there, customers can enjoy its visitor centre which combines a viewing gallery where visitors can watch the cheesemaker ‘in action’ throughout the day plus get a glimpse into one of its Maturing Stores too. A 20-minute film also shows the whole process from start to finish. It’s a great day out for kids and the whole family.
To purchase the ‘Cheese Your Own’ Bundles online for a swift home delivery, please visit https://www.cheddaronline.co.uk/ . To book a visit to watch them make their famous cheese, call 01934 742810 during office hours.
For daily updates & cheese inspiration, follow The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company on social media: Twitter @CheddarCheeseCo, Instagram @cheddargorgecheeseco and Facebook @cheddargorgecheesecompany.
‘Best Cheddar’ at the British Cheese Awards in 2013 and the ‘Champion Cheese’ at the Devon County Show in 2017, in 2018 they won another Gold at The British Cheese Awards and The Great British Food Awards 2019 selected The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company’s Vintage cheddar as being Highly Commended by, none-other, Marcus Wearing!
Cheddar is about 3.5 hours from south east London, a nice drive and a great spot to get away for the weekend.
The Surrounding Area
Cheddar Gorge – Walking routes – Visit National Trust for walks and more info.
Ebbor Gorge – Walking routes, great views of Cheddar and Glastonbury Tor – this is the walk we did. It took about three hours, moderate and up hill a good part of the way. The views at the top were well worth the hike. Find out more on the walk we did here at Discovering Britain.
Glastonbury Town – 20 minutes drive from Cheddar, we didn’t visit this time but plan to return again soon.
Wells Historic Town and Cathedral – A quaint little market town with cathedral and palace gardens. A splattering of lovely boutique shops and cafes, the square is a great spot to watch the world go by. We enjoyed coffee and a delicious cinnamon swirl in Loaf Bakehouse. A funky relaxing space, where the bake the cakes on site – delicious!
Wookey Hole – we stayed in a basic hotel here. This village is aimed to cater mostly for families with children, with a couple of pubs and places to eat and some tourist attractions guaranteed to while away the day with the kids. Check out the Wookey Hole Caves and more here.
For more info on the area why not check out the Visit Somerset website, jam packed with info and ideas.