I'd like to introduce you to Anna Juhl, founder of Cheese Journeys, a company which organizes just that -- cheese journeys all around the world. For the true cheese lover, Anna has her pulse on the specialty and farmstead cheese industry in Europe and the States, and she knows the best cheeses to try and the visionary cheese makers behind each style.
On her upcoming five day England trip, April 1st through the 5th, the Cheddar Odyssey tour is co-hosted by Cheese Journeys owner Anna Juhl, writer Tenaya Darlington, (Madame Fromage), and Mike Geno - artist and cheese painter. During the tour, you will stay at North Cadbury Court (NCC), one of the finest historic properties in Somerset, England. You’ll enjoy chef-prepared meals, tour scenic farms, and witness cheddar making firsthand - by some of Britain’s last farmhouse cheddar producers. You’ll participate in cooking demonstrations and even a “cheese portrait” art class taught by Mike Geno. During your stay at the 21-bedroom North Cadbury Court (NCC), the group of cheese/food enthusiasts will relax and enjoy an opportunity to be immersed in the world of cheese, food and cider that Somerset is so well known for - all while living in “Downtown Abbey" style!
You can read more and book your spot for the upcoming 2019 trip here, and if you mention you found out about the journey through Cheese Grotto, you'll receive a few special gifts -- including a cheese book, apron, and a print version of one of Mike Geno's cheese paintings.
Read on below for a special peek into this Cheddar Odyssey. Anna highlights some of the best Farmhouse British Cheddars below.
Our "Cheddar Odyssey"
I started Cheese Journeys as a way to - through travel and first-hand experience - share my appreciation for the places, people, and cultures connected to cheese and cheese making. And while I enjoy all of our tour destinations, my favorite Cheese Journey by far is “England: A Cheddar Odyssey”. You might wonder why, when I also run tours to venerable cheese making nations like France and Italy, I love the UK’s dairy scene so much. In truth, the UK is experiencing a quiet cheese making renaissance, and it’s a story that’s been mostly under-sung in the wider culinary sphere.
First, a little background information. Due to food shortages during and after World War Two, many farms ceased their small-scale cheese operations, instead sending their milk to centralized factories to be turned into government-regulated cheese. These small farms were, for the most part, making traditional cheeses that were specific to their region, and the making of small-scale, regional British cheeses never fully recovered from the impact of these changes.
In the last few decades, thanks to the efforts of dedicated British cheesemakers and cheesemongers such as Neal’s Yard Dairy, many of these traditional cheeses and methods are being revived. It’s wonderful and exciting to see this in action - and to share this with my Cheese Journeys guests!
The first day of our Cheddar Odyssey begins with a visit to Neal’s Yard Dairy. First we drop into their Borough Market shop, where we’re given a short history of the company and an overview of the British cheesemaking landscape - illustrated with generous samples! Neal’s Yard works in partnership with producers to bring exceptional cheeses to market, and part of that relationship includes undertaking some of the responsibility for the aging of the cheeses. We tour the Neal’s Yard Dairy “Arches”, where all of the cheese ripening magic happens. Few non-professionals gain access to this hallowed locale, so our Cheese Journeys guests are privileged indeed!
After our morning in London, we head to our home base for the rest of the trip: North Cadbury Court in Somerset, the family home of the Montgomerys, a renowned cheddar-making family. Jamie Montgomery, who leads the cheesemaking operations on the farm, takes us into the creamery to witness the process firsthand:
Montgomery’s Cheddar, along with two other neighbouring cheddar producers, Keens Cheddar and Westcombe Cheddar, form the Artisanal Somerset Cheddar Presidium of the Slow Food Ark of Taste - a collection of producers of what are considered traditional foods in danger of extinction. And all three producers were in attendance at our dinner party celebrating British cheesemakers!
But, the British cheesemaking scene isn’t just about preserving the past; it’s also about looking to the future! The photo below shows our group visiting the brand new, state of the art aging facility at Westcombe - complete with the world’s first cheddar-turning robot, Tina the Turner!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my slide show of highlights from our English Cheddar Odyssey. We’re going to be exploring it all again this April - won’t you join us?