‘Artisan food producers make an impression at cheese festival’

September 25, 2016


RICH PASTURE: Tom Carver of the Westcombe Dairy at this year’s cheese festival. The Westcombe brand is down to the productivity of the east Somerset landscape, which boasts lush pastures, spring water, rolling hills and cooling mists.


MULTI-FACETED: A staff member from Godminster Cheese speaks to a member of the public at their stall of award-winning cheeses. As well as their cheese, the Soil Association-registered organic business uses fruits and herbs from its own orchard on the farm and produces chutneys and vodkas too.



PROTECTED STATUS: Jade Letts and Bridget Jeanes of the Blue Vinney Cheese company. The cheese has Protected Geographical Indicator status which means that the product genuinely originates from Dorset and protects regional foods from unfair competition and enabling it to get a premium price for its authenticity.


SPIRIT LED: Tori of Friary Liqueurs and her sister Hannah, who was not around the time at this picture, produce a range of hand-crafted liqueurs at their Frome base having inherited their specialist skills from their Dad, who has since retired. Tori persuaded me to sample some of their liqueurs and the cherry brandy will be tried instead of wine with some cheese, they will be interested to know,.


SAY CHEESE: First-time visitor to the Sturminster Cheese Festival Steve Dickinson shows a slab of cheese that was too much to resist.


SWEET DREAMS: James Porter at the Christine’s Puddings stall at the cheese festival. They were discounting puddings that had to go at the end of the Sunday weekend trading and I took away a toffee pudding myself.



STURMINSTER Newton’s cheese festival had an array of top artisan food producers and craftsmen showed visitors the fruits of their hard labour.

After a two-year absence from visiting this event, this blog was very pleased to return to the venue at the back of the village that this year boasted two big food marquees, a craft marquee, a cider tent, a kids zone, a real ale tent and outside catering. Technical problems meant this post has been published later than was originally intended.

Several years ago I recall meeting Tom Carver of the Westcombe Dairy when covering the Royal Bath and West Show in around 2003 or 2004 for The Western Gazette, and it was good to see him again here at the cheese festival, after a decade or so.

Cheese-making at the Ditcheat-based entreprise is a continuous process that starts with collecting the raw milk from the cows in the morning and ends up on the plate, which in my case was a delicious slice of cheese on toast.

The quality of the pasture is monitored along with the well-being of each individual cow and the hands-on cheese-making process sees their small team use only traditional starter cultures and natural rennet to aid the milk’s transformation.

Godminster Cheese of Bruton produce cheese from milk from an organic herd that has been certified by the Soil Association. Their organic creamy cheddars are uniquely branded with an encased Burgundy wax.

Their distinctive cheddar takes 12 months to mature and has a depth of flavour that is doesn’t have the acidity that is associated with vintage cheddar.

As well as a successful dairy farm, it has also helped to restore natural habitats to help native fauna and flora. The 280-strong organic herd’s home is 1,300 acres of scenic landscape that also includes orchards that boast a number of fruits and herbs that are an inspiration to many of the Godminster products.

Bridget Jeanes and Jade Letts of Dorset Blue Vinney persuaded me to try out one of their protected geographical indicator (PGI) Blue Vinney cheese which is an EU-pioneered scheme to protect products that have traditional qualities. This cheese was also being served in the form of a soup during the course of the whole weekend.

The business are a stone’s throw away from the village and owner Mike Davies resurrected the recipe for the Blue Vinney cheese in 1980 after a 300-year absence. The Dorset Blue Soup Company is run by Emily Davies and their range has expanded into chutneys, pickled cucumbers, gifts packs and wedding cakes.

They’ve collaborated with Purbeck Ice Cream to make a Blue Vinney cheese ice cream with Mike being of the original Rick Stein heroes and they have also been profiled on River Cottage by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Some people may assume that whenever you have a slice of cheese, a glass of wine always is the assumed partner for the pallet, but what about a hand-made fruit brandy as a change?

Friary Liqueurs are based out of Witham Friary, near Frome, and their quality-assured brandies, are made by hand, not machines. Every batch they make is smaller than 100 litres and throughout their years of business, they claim they’ve made up to 8,000 batches.

The company says on its website that the makers of blockbuster period drama Downton Abbey came into the Friary Headquarters seeking gifts for their cast.

Charities in the immediate North Dorset locality have been the beneficiaries of in excess of £175,000 in the past five years of the event being run.

Chairman Martin Parrott said of the 2016 festival: “We constantly strive for improvements and this year has been no exception. We made changes to the layout, with more seating and picnic tables.

“There were even more exhibitors, more entertainment for both your younger visitors and adults, and despite rising costs we have maintained our low admission costs.

“It takes months of planning, thousands of e-mails and a huge commitment from the individual committee members to whom I once again, extend a huge vote of thanks.”

Christine’s Puddings who make gluten-free puddings were discounting some of their lovely sweets at the end of the Sunday as they had to go, and I ended up taking two away that were scoffed down gratefully in the next couple of days.

They produce gluten-free sweet and savoury tarts using no artificial additives and their specialities include Ginger and Apricot pudding, Christmas pudding and Tarte Maison gluten-free pastry cakes.



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