Chiswick Cheese Market March 2024

Celebrating International Women’s Day AND St Patrick’s Day

Guest blog by Lucy Cufflin 

International Women’s Day seemed a good time to shout about the fact that cheese making was very much solely a women’s occupation until mass cheese production started during and post the World Wars.

Heading up cheese making in a factory then became a ‘professional job’ and at that time a professional job was ‘men’s work’ – no women here!

There is a lot of evidence that the then male dominated mass production industry came to existing women cheese makers for help them identify exact temperatures and PH levels so that the methods could be ‘formulated’ rather than done by taste and feel as it had been done for many centuries by the women who made the cheese successfully with handed down knowhow.

How times change? We find ourselves with an exploding Artisan cheese industry and not surprisingly it has over its fair share of women again both making cheese and guiding the industry.

Here are a few cheeses to look out for:

(left to right: Wigmore, Lanark Blue, Sinodun Hill)

Tunworth – Made by Stacey Hedges and Charlotte Spruce in Hampshire. Stacey made the first Tunworth prototype in her family kitchen. She was later joined by Charlotte and together they set up Hampshire Cheese Company. Find @londonsmokecure

Sinodun Hill – Made by Rachel Yarrow and her husband Fraser in Oxfordshire. It was Rachel’s idea – she read about making goat’s cheese in an old copy of Woman and Home and tried it and got the bug – she persuaded her husband to give up their jobs, move to the country and start farming goats and making cheese. Find @no2poundst

Quicke’s Cheddar – made by Quicke’s run by Mary Quicke. Mary Quicke is a 14th generation cheesemaker – she took over running the business in 1987 even though it was always presumed one of her brothers would automatically run the family business. Apart from making exceptional Cheddar, Mary is one of the founders of The Academy of Cheese.

The Academy has a far-reaching effect on the British cheese industry and is one of the main reasons for the huge increase in artisan cheese making in the UK. Mary is a loud voice in the artisan cheese industry in the UK and gives her time endlessly to promote British artisan cheese worldwide. Roi brings this to the market alongside Trethowan’s Gorwydd Caerphilly and Pitchfork Cheddar.

Wigmore – Made by Anne Wigmore. Anne set up Village Maid Cheese in an outbuilding in Spencer’s Wood whilst she was working in the microbiology department in the National Institute for Dairying. In 1987 The Duke of Wellington asked her to make cheese for his neighbouring Estate using milk from their Guernsey cows. The rest as you might say is history. Buy from @bigwheelcheese

Witherage – Made by Rose Grimmond. After moving the family dairy farm over to organic only production Rose was horrified to find her milk was mixed with other milks by the milk wholesalers so in order to use her top grade milk to its best, she set up Nettlebed Dairy. Rose won the Sue Ryder woman of the Year for best business in 2020. Find @no2poundst

Lanark Blue – Made by Selina Cairns. The original Lanarkshire Blue cheese recipes were lost post-Second World War, so when Selina Cairns decided to revive cheese making in Lanarkshire, she went to France to learn from Roquefort cheese makers. She brought back not only recipes but the same breed of sheep as Roquefort cheese is made from. Buy @no2poundst and @londonsmokecure

Image above: The Chiswick Cheese Market team

There are so many more, but I’d also like to give a bit of a shout on this special month to The Chiswick Cheese Market team. We are a creative, dynamic group of ten hard-working women who got together back in 2017 to host food events in Chiswick to raise money for charity – we started with supper clubs showcasing new cookbooks and grew into the Cookbook Festival which we ran with the help of the highly successful Chiswick Book Festival.

Our live events were thwarted by COVID in 2020 but when we were alerted to the troubles of the British Artisan cheese industry during the pandemic we decided to see if we could help. Inspired by the Flower Market team who re-instigated a market at heart of Chiswick on the High Road we decided that we would bring cheese home to ‘Cheesewick’ and started our Market in May 2021, thus giving a route to market for artisan cheese makers.

We work in our free time to curate, organise, and oversee this monthly cheese extravaganza and donate the Market profits to charities and sponsorship. We have given away well over £25,000 so far. We make regular donations to The Upper Room and last year we started our Chiswick Cheese Market Makers Grant in association with the Academy of Cheese, giving money for education and specialist help to new cheese makers.

For those who are regulars at the market you can see some of the team on the day working hard, but as with all these things that is merely the tip of the work iceberg – there are an awful lot of hours given freely each month by the team to get this amazing cheese spectacle to the High Road.

So as the song says – ‘let’s hear it for the girls’ and I want to add that I feel utterly privileged to be part of this amazing group of fantastic women.

Want to know more about women in cheese and wine? We’re thrilled to be @kindredlondon on 20th March co-hosting a cheese and wine pairing event with  @basket_press_wines  discovering  5 cheeses and 5 wines made by women.

Back to this month’s market –

It’s St Patrick’s Day on Sunday so join the ‘craic’ and come along to our Irish Cheese tasting on Market HQ – London Smoke and Cure are bringing three wonderful Irish cheeses for us to try so don’t miss out – you just might find a new favourite!

Buttercup will be suitably dressed so come along for a selfie and don’t forget to share #cheesewick

Image above: Jacky, @grateandgrill

Recipe of the month – Grate and Grill 4 Cheese Toastie

Jacky, @grateandgrill, who brings us the most delicious cheese toasties every market has divulged her recipe, so you don’t have to wait a whole month for a second sandwich of ooey-gooey, cheesy fabulousness.

  1. Always use good artisan sourdough bread.
  2. You will need around 100g of grated cheese per toastie.
  3. A four-cheese mix is the best, we use grated mozzarella, cheddar, Red Leicester and an additional intensely flavoured cheese like Comté, Parmesan or Gruyere. This will give the right flavour and melting characteristics.) Make up the sandwich and brush the outside bread lightly with butter. Cook on a plancha or heavy cast iron skillet weighed down with a press to help achieve a perfect level of melt.
  4. Toast for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has melted then add your favourite topping for extra deliciousness

Jacky’s tip to turn this into a Paddy’s Day Special – replace the Comté with Gubeen a wonderful great melting washed rind cheese from SW Ireland – and yes, we’ve got it at the market this month – pop and see Lee @londonsmokecure. Good luck and enjoy your toastie.

Just to let you know we had the non-Irish version for brunch on Sunday. I used 24 month Comté (@thefrenchcomte), Sparkenhoe Red Leicester (@no2poundst), La Latteria Mozzarella from Thee Olive Tree and Pitchfork Cheddar from Roi. It was decadently, deliciously out of this world!

We’re hoping the weather won’t be too Irish on St Patrick’s Day but come rain or shine the Cheese Market team will be there 9.30am-3pm – Girl Power!

Lucy Cufflin, Chiswick Cheese Market Team

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