Thursday, 7 January 2016

Making Farmhouse Cheshire Cheese

The way farmers have made farmhouse Cheshire cheese has altered little over the years.  A friend (and former ADAS colleague of mine), Sarah Lunt (née Walley) recently lent me a wonderful book.

This photo album was made for her father (Edward Walley), and shows how farmhouse Cheshire cheese was made at Lighteach Farm (near Prees in Shropshire). On the cover it says 1942, but we believe it to be 1952, after the milking parlour was installed in 1949 and they also changed to a Friesian herd.

It's a wonderful insight into farmhouse cheese making.

The first picture shows the cows in the collecting yard, ready for milking:

The next picture shows Michael Faulkner, milking the cows:
The milk passes through control jars and a sieve:
through a pipeline to the dairy.  Farmhouse cheese making is a curious mixture of art and science. The next picture show us Joan testing the milk before setting:
 In the next step, Joan stirs in the rennet:
The cheese was then tested before cutting:
In the next picture, Joan is cutting the curds with an American curd knife:
the next photo shows Auntie Rye stirring the cheese:
and Joan weighing the salt:
before adding it to the cheese. Then Joan tests the whey with an acidimeter:
Then Aunty Rye drains off the whey:
 In the next picture we can see Aunty Rye breaking and turning the curd:
In the next picture we can see Marjorie Hewitt grinding the curd:
and then Auntie Rye puts the curd into cheese moulds:
The cream is then separated from the whey:
to make whey butter. Here's Aunty Rye washing the butter:
The cheese is then pressed:
and bound in cloth:
The cheese are stored in the ripening room. The next picture shows Marjorie Hewitt rubbing and turning cheese in the ripening room:
Nothing is wasted and the next picture shows the whey being fed to the pigs:
Looking through the album it's clear that there's a great sense of pride in the whole process. The last photo show the result- farmhouse Cheshire cheese:
In the back of the album there's a couple of colour pictures from 1970. One shows a cow in the milking parlour:
and another of cheese being bound in cloth:
One of Sarah's sisters, Lucy, married Lance Appleby.  In 1942 Lance and Lucy Appleby moved to Hawkstone Abbey Farm.  Both Lance and Lucy Appleby were awarded MBE’s for their services to cheesemaking in Shropshire, in 2001.

I had the privilege of meeting Lance and Lucy, and think they were both quite remarkable people.  Their family still make Cheshire cheese at Hawkstone Abbey (see here for more information) and in my opinion it's the best Cheshire cheese that you can buy - even if it is in Shropshire!

Bill Pearson's Home Page:

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Reaseheath Outdoor Education Centre

I've always worried about how city people have lost touch with how their food is produced.  Cheshire Education Committee were keen that this shouldn't happen - and the Reaseheath Outdoor Education Centre run by a very enthusiastic Simon Young was one of the first centres of its kind.

Below I've reproduced a page about it, which is from a Cheshire College of Agriculture prospectus (which Peter Brand has kindly lent me). I'm guessing it's from around about 1987 as a label has been put over George England's name, showing Vic Croxson as the new principal. 
Jackie Symms tells me that the above photo was taken at Underwood West Infant School in Crewe, probably very early 80s.  The children loved the experience.

Reaseheath Outdoor Education Centre  
Warden: S. W. Young, D.P.T., C.Biol., M.I.Biol., Cert Ed.
Assistant: Mrs. D. l. Robinson, Cert.Ed.
Secretary: Mrs. B. Harvey
Poultry Manager: R B. Nicholls

The Reaseheath Outdoor Education Centre is one of seven centres established by the Cheshire Education Committee. Making full use of the College farms and grounds it allows visitors to see practical farming and conservation measures running side by side. The Centre is a day centre with limited accommodation for residential courses and caters for pupils from infants to college students. The College is able to provide a cooked mid-day meal and the centre has the provision of a fully equipped workroom, a small laboratory and a changing room.

Most schools visit the centre in order to study, at first hand, topics of a biological, ecological, geographical or historical nature and many use the farming countryside around as the motivation for subjects such as Mathematics, spoken and written English and Art.

Residential Field Study courses are provided for pupils taking G.C.E. "A", "O", "16+ " and C.S.E. examinations. A number of specialist and introductory courses for teachers are also held during the year.

Certain areas on the farm are being conserved as more natural habitats to show
pupils fauna and flora not directly affected by commercial farming. The management of these areas is carried out by a volunteer conservation corps and by local school pupils. The centre is also actively involved with the Cheshire Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group offering conservation advice to farmers and organising conservation management courses and conferences.

An Educational Farm visit scheme has been started whereby schools can now make use of 20 Cheshire farms located near large towns and cities. Courses and talks on the farming countryside are organised for the general public and recently "Farm School" visits have been conducted taking live farm animals into urban schools.