Upcoming London Gastronomy Seminar: Cheddar Cheese

Just in case you’ve missed the various announcements, I wanted to draw the attention of readers to the next of the London Gastronomy Seminars. It’s this Friday, at the usual venue (Senate House, University of London), and the speakers are Randolph Hodgson and Bronwen Percival.

In many ways, the modern cheesemaker has a less sophisticated understanding of his product than his great-grandmother did.

Recently rediscovered, Dora Saker’s Practical Cheddar Cheese-making (1917) has acquired cult status amongst cheesemakers. Through a series of ad-hoc workshops, they have gone back to re-examine the tenets of Cheddar cheese making, experimenting with pre-ripening raw milk to encourage the development of non-starter lactic acid bacteria, cutting the curd at different times to change its structure and ability to lose moisture, and slowing the make to encourage the development of different flavours and texture. Continued experimentation has given the participants a more sophisticated understanding of—and level of control over—the complex factors at play in raw milk cheese making.

Their experiments have also revealed the extent to which the ‘traditional’ recipe for Cheddar cheese has changed in the past century. Factors that have been taken for granted—like the best breed of cow for Cheddar cheese making, or the appropriate texture of the curd at milling—are suddenly being reexamined at every turn.

Ultimately, this work serves to challenge our very understanding of what Cheddar cheese is. This presentation will give a chance to experience cheeses at the centre of the British cheese revolution.

Speakers:

Randolph Hodgson is the owner and Chairman of Neal’s Yard Dairy. He was born in 1956, and after an upbringing in Hong Kong, read Food Science and Chemistry at King’s College, University of London. He has only ever had one job; Neal’s Yard Dairy was founded in 1979. A cheesemaking business, Neal’s Yard Creamery, was spun off in 1985.

In 1990, Randolph founded the Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association, which represents over 150 British farmhouse cheesemakers. His impact on London’s food scene extends beyond the confines of the cheese industry: in the late 1990s, he was instrumental in the development of Borough Market as London’s leading gastronomic retail destination. Faced by the demise of raw milk Stilton, in 2005 Randolph established Stichelton Dairy with Joe Schneider on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire, with the aim to revive Stilton cheese made with unpasteurised milk.

Randolph was awarded an OBE in 2007 for his contribution to the British cheese industry.

Bronwen Percival was educated at Wellesley College and Oxford University. After two years in the Peace Corps in Senegal, she returned to make cheese at a dairy in New Jersey. Further study at Oxford brought her into contact with Randolph Hodgson and Neal’s Yard Dairy; she left academe to assume a role within the company. Bronwen is now the cheese buyer, working with Randolph on new cheese development, quality assurance, and selection.

You can buy tickets here.

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