By Lyn Funnell
High Weald Dairy is based on a farm in beautiful countryside on the outskirts of Horsted Keynes, Sussex.
Owner Mark Hardy showed me round and explained what goes on in a cheesemaking dairy.
A lot of people don’t realise that it takes 10 litres of cow milk to make 1 kilo of cheese!
But nothing is wasted at the High Weald Dairy.
75% of their electricity now comes from renewable sources.
There are 38 solar panels on the roof and another 30 in a nearby field beside the dairy
Their water comes from a borehole, with a backup for when the supply runs low.
A large biomass woodburner supplies heat for all the central heating and hot water for cheesemaking and washing equipment.
The wood is coppiced from the farm woodlands and makes it economic to maintain the farms woods, and a local carpenter supplies the dairy with oak shavings for the cheese smoker.
The dairy is well on the road to being carbon neutral working to get down to being carbon neutral and hope to be so in 2025.
I was shown rows of maturing cheeses in the cheese ‘cellar’ which is on ground level. It is kept at a constant 10 degrees.
Large round Brighton Blues are pierced after 10 days in the cheese store. This allows oxygen to reach the middle of the cheese, which encourages blue mould that was added during the cheese making process to grow which will produce the delicious blue cheese flavour.
They take around 7 weeks to mature, creating the delicious mellow blue flavour.
Other cheeses made in the dairy include
Organic Saint St Giles that is is coated in organic carrot powder which gives it the distinctive orange colour, similar to a Port Salut.
Seven Sisters Cheese is a sheep milk cheese, matured for 5 months and coated in Hebridean seaweed.
Ashdown Foresters, which is one of the Dairy’s original cheeses, is a hard cow’s cheese, made in a traditional basket shape.
Sussex Blossom is one of their newest cheeses. It was created for King Charles’ Coronation, and coated in organic edible flower petals.
We walked along a corridor to see the Dairy. The wall is completely covered with awards for their many cheeses. Every one of their cheeses has won at least one!
The spotless Dairy employs up to 16 local staff in total, both full and part time.
Milk is pasteurised, and cheese making cultures added at around 32 ‘ C. After an hour, the vegetable rennet is added to the warmed milk, which coagulates the curd, which becomes like junket, semi solid.
A huge sieve-like machine cuts through the solidifying milk to cut the curd. This allows the whey to separate out. The finer you cut the cheese, the harder the cheese becomes.
Some cheeses need the curds to be heated further, sometimes up to 40 ‘ Cm this makes a harder cheese. The curds and whey run off into different containers and the curd is put into cheese moulds. Then they’re pressed.
It’s amazing how something like plain milk – cow’s, sheep and goats milk – can be changed into so many different cheeses!
Sussex High Weald Dairy
Open 9am-5pm Monday – Friday.