Each newsletter we will be interviewing a independent producer who is smashing life. This week we talk to David Holton from Blackwoods Cheese Company.
How did Blackwoods Cheese company start?
Myself and two friends that I grew up with and had all worked at our local dairy at some stage in our lives, all found ourselves living in the UK. Some still working working with cheese, some not. We couldn’t find any Persian Fetta over here so we decided to make our own.
Have you always been in the food industry or did you have another career before that?
I have worked on and off in food/wine industry since being in school. In my early twenties I studied, travelled and worked some pretty shitty jobs, installing swimming pools i.e. digging really big holes certainly gave me some focus! When I was about 27 I decided to make a career working with food and began a cheese making traineeship.
You specialise in soft cow cheeses, is this fairly unusual? What was the decision behind this?
I like working with soft cheese as although the maturation is relatively short it’s very hands on. Each day we check the cheese and decide what needs to be done to it, turn, dry, wash etc..You need to pay a lot of attention to how the cheese is developing. Monitoring the rind and making sure your encouraging the right microbes and that they are doing what you want them to do.
Why raw milk, is it purely for flavour or are there other benefits as well?
Depth of flavour and a taste of place are the two biggest factors for working with raw milk, it certainly adds more variables and challenges are well. But the driving factor is always flavour.
Pardon my ignorance, can you tell me more about how cheese is produced?
Cheese production can be seen in three parts, milk, make and maturation. These parts all influence your cheese in arguable equal measures. Within the make itself, cheese is (pretty much) is made from four ingredients, milk, salt, culture and rennet. From here there are a million different variables to play with. Which strains of culture you wish to use, what temperature you take the milk to, how much rennet to use, how much moisture you remove form the curd through cutting and stirring. There right combination of these factors will help you make the cheese you wish to produce.
The Graceburn feta, is cheese crack. How long did it take you to perfect that recipe?
I learnt to make a version of this cheese is Australia working at the Yarra Valley Dairy just outside of Melbourne. Since starting my own dairy I’ve adapted the recipe using raw milk, on a much smaller scale and a more hands on approach.
Why have you chosen to make the cheese by hand rather than machine?
Money and flavour. We started the business with very little capital but plenty of enthusiasm and pig headed determination. Doing things by hand and buying new more efficient bits of kit as we’ve gone along. We’ve just got a dishwasher this year and it’s a game changer! But more seriously, working with our hands throughout the make process rather that using larger scale machines, we’ve found we’ve learnt a lot more and have better control over our variables and are able to produce superior more consistent cheese.
How many people are in the team?
4 at the moment. We have two people at the dairy making cheese full time and two position, one part and full time, doing retail at our stall/shop at Borough Market.
Would you ever run cheese making workshops?
If you had to pair one of your cheeses with a shop bought biscuit, what would be your top choice?
The Fine cheese company biscuits are pretty damn good, but just go with whatever you like.
Do you like cheese the French or the English way? Before or after pudding?
I like to put a cheese board out early before the meal so people can help themselves whenever they feel like it.
Potentially an antagonistic one, what do you think about vegan ‘cheeses’?
I’ve not eaten any but other people do and I’m ok with that.
Most importantly, where can people buy your cheese?
At our little shop at Borough market Wednesday - Saturday. Brockley Market on Saturday mornings. Independent cheese and food shops across London.
Now for the personal bit, what’s the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?
Clotted pigs blood hot pot in Shenzhen, China.
If you could only take 5 ingredients to a desert island what would they be?
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
The boxing day sandwich, comte and ham fried in butter.
Whose your biggest food inspiration?
Words by Sophie Godwin