Gerry Cottle, once the ringmaster and owner of Britain’s leading circus and now owner of historic Wookey Hole Caves near Wells in Somerset, has revived an age old tradition – maturing cheese in Caves
Four hundred years ago there was no refrigeration and the caves were the ideal place to mature cheeses. The temperature is a constant 11°C all year round, and the high humidity is also ideal to stop the cheese drying out during the ageing process
Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar, now a recognised brand at Wookey Hole as well as in supermarkets and cheese shops across the UK, is made by a cheesemaker in Dorset, Ford Farm.
Ford Farm is one of the few farms left in the West Country where authentic handmade cheddar is still produced.
Dorset is one of only four counties where West Country Farmhouse Cheddar can officially be made and gain eligibility to carry the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) logo.
Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar has won lots of awards since it was first launched over ten years ago – most recently a Gold Medal at the British Cheese Awards. Did you know that Ford Farm also matures a Goats Milk Cheese in Wookey Hole which won a Super Gold as well as Best British Cheese at the World Cheese Awards?
Why not try Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar and Wookey Hole Cave Aged Goats Cheese for yourself by buying them from our on-site shops?
Cave Aged Cheddar: The facts
1. Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese has been made in the West Country since the 16th Century. Most of the cheese in the cave is approximately a year old.
2. Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese was stored in the caves on the Mendips 400 years ago as it was the ideal temperature at 11°C and also the ideal humidity at around 100 %. The high humidity stops the cheese losing too much weight during ageing.
3.Cheese is remarkably porous. If you leave it in a fridge, unsealed, alongside an onion, it will take on the flavour very quickly. In the same way, Cave Aged Cheddar takes on the deeply complex earthy, nutty flavours from the Caves.
5. Traditional PDO West Country Farmhouse Cheddar is only made in small amounts these days – probably only 1500 tonnes per year. This sounds a lot, but in comparison to the Cheddar business in the UK this is a very small percentage. There are only a small handful of farms left in the UK making it and Ford Farm is the only one at present storing it in the Caves.
6. PDO – This stands for Protected Designation of Origin, and only applies to cheese made by farms that use their own milk, make the cheese to traditional recipes and methods and are based in Somerset, Dorset, Devon, or Cornwall. You can see that it is PDO Cheddar by the distinctive sign displayed on the Farmhouse Cheddar packs.
7.Bats, rats and mice are not in this part of the cave. We have health and environmental strategies in place to prevent any problems as in any food premises.
8. The mould you see on the cheese is on the cloth that protects it. Before the cheese is packed the cloth is removed and the mould stays with the cloth revealing the cheese you see and buy in the supermarket.
For further information, visit the Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar page at www.fordfarm.com