Crabtree and Chilli Cheese is made with milk from a 350 strong Holstein Friesian herd which graze on the Cheshire pastures around the village of Malpas.
Anne Clayton, the Artisan cheese maker, is not from a farming background and cheese making could not have been further from her intended wish list for careers. Anne, who was working in Italy, met a Cheshire farmers son and that, they say, is history! Peters’ family have farmed for generations at Larkton Hall Farm, just outside of Malpas village.
They returned to England and they saw an opportunity to make cheese using the surplus milk. Anne successfully undertook a Reaseheath Cheese Makers course and decided to introduce a taste of Italy to Cheshire and, so, developed her own cheeses.
As Anne asked her friend Benny, an Italian Cheese maker, for help. He drove from Italy and spent a month working with Anne to develop her own style of cheese making.
Just after the morning milking has finished, the churns are carried from the milk shed, across the courtyard, to the diary. Poured into a copper cheese vat where the unpasteurised milk is gently heated to 63 degrees fahrenheit, for 30 minutes, following which the starter and animal rennet is added.
The curds and whey form. The chilli is added. The whey is drained away and the curds gathered and placed into moulds. This is a relatively young cheese that is not pressed. It is dipped in brine and left to mature for 30/40 days.
They mature in a humidity controlled cellar, where they are placed onto thick pine wooden planks to ripen.
That maturing time allows the very distinct ribbed rind to form on the exterior and the “eyes” (small holes as seen in Emmental) to develop in the interior. The paste (or cheese within the rind) starts golden and changes to a pale cream in the centre and has a springy texture.
The taste is full and creamy with a distinctive freshness that lingers on the palate. That taste, Anne thinks, comes from the Crabtree orchards that the cattle graze on. As much of Cheshire has underlying fields of salts and minerals, those minerals area absorbed by the grass and grazed on by the cows. The grass has a high mineral content that is reflected in the milk and subsequently the cheese. So, it is the grass and the crabapples that give Anne’s cheese its unique taste. It has a very soft and squishy texture and an immensely creamy flavour.
Anne specialises in three cheeses: ‘Federia’ (a hard cheese), ‘Crabtree’ (a semi-hard cheese) and ‘The Cheese with No Name’ (mixed with 10% goats’ milk). She is the recipient of both Gold and Silver Awards for British Cheese Makers.
Although the milk is unpasteurised it is still suitable for pregnant woman to eat, according to the NHS guidelines, but as it uses animal rennet it is not suitable for Vegetarians.
It can be the star of classic cheese board accompanied by a jar of Cheshire Chutney Co’s Victorian Pickle and Peters Yard Sour Dough biscuits.
Crabtree and Chilli Cheese is best at room temperature. Remove from the fridge when you open your bottle of wine; thus allowing the temperature of the cheese to slowly rise.
When you have finished. resist the temptation to wrap the cheese in cling film or place in an air tight container. Cheese needs to breathe or it will sweat. So rewrap in the wax paper your cheese monger used and place it in the crisper draw of your fridge. Cheese stored like this will keep for up to 14 days from the date it was cut by your cheesemonger.
If some white blooming appears, it is totally natural, don’t be concerned, just remove it and enjoy the remainder of your Crabtree and Chilli Cheese.