All our cheese is made at our small dairy in east Somerset with milk from our two herds of Friesian-Holstein cows. We milk our cows twice a day and use the milk ‘raw’ – i.e unpasteurised, unhomegenised and as undisturbed as possible – so that it reaches the vat with all its natural structure, goodness and character intact.
Boasting both European PDO status and the much rarer ‘Artisan Somerset Cheddar’ designation from Slow Food, this is our flagship cheese, made using unadulterated fresh raw milk which we pour into the vat still warm from the cows.
We take an instinctive approach when making our Cheddar, letting experience guide us through each step of the process to create a perfectly balanced cheese. The cheddaring of the curds is done by hand and we still use a Cheddar peg mill (one of only a few still in use the country) to mill the slabs of curd. After salting, the curds are pressed into traditional cylindrical Cheddar moulds and cloth-bound with lard to let them breathe as they quietly age for between 11 to 18 months – or until they’re ready.
Westcombe Unpasteurised Cheddar has a deep complex flavour with a mellow lactic tang and long notes suggesting citrus, hazelnut and caramel. The texture is structured and firm, with a smooth breakdown that lets the flavours linger in your mouth. Indeed, this cheese is often called a Five Mile Cheddar as you’re still tasting it five miles down the road!
Our Aged Caerphilly is made alongside our Cheddar, using the same raw milk. We acquired this unique cheese from Chris Duckett, a respected cheesemaker from nearby Wedmore, whose family had been making Caerphilly on their own farm since the 1920s.
When he gave up farming in the late 1990s, Chris Duckett moved over to Westcombe Dairy to continue making his beloved Caerphilly. Sadly, ill-health forced Chris to retire from cheesemaking a few years ago, but not wishing to see this fabulous cheese disappear, we adopted it and continue the Duckett family’s Caerphilly tradition on our farm. We even converted one of our cellars as a dedicated Caerphilly ageing room, diverting a spring through it to create the perfect temperature and humidity for the cheese’s maturation.
You only have to taste Duckett’s Aged Caerphilly to realise why we did all this. It’s a wonderful cheese, fresh tasting, with a clean lactic tang and flavours of grass, fresh mushroom and citrus. Although originally a Welsh cheese, Caerphilly has been made in Somerset since the late 1800s, when a faster ripening alternative to Cheddar was sought.
In addition to Duckett’s Aged Caerphilly, we also make a gentler, pasteurised version called Duckett’s Pasteurised Caerphilly. Light, moist and ever so crumbly, this cheese is best enjoyed while young and still full of zesty flavours. It is also the base for the famous Tornegus washed-rind and herb-marinated cheese made by Mrs Aldridge.
Throwing away perfectly good whey – or giving it to the pigs – is something that surely irks most cheesemakers. Whey is rich in lactose and nutrients, so it’s always a shame to see it leave the dairy unused. We started making our Somerset Ricotta as a way of turning a by-product of our traditional Cheddar making into a truly delicious cheese in its own right.
Hailing from Italy, Ricotta is a fresh and unripened whey cheese. The name literally means ‘re-cooked’, as the whey is heated once again to coagulate the remaining milk proteins. While we base ours on the Italian method, we make it our own by hand-ladling each cheese into its little basket moulds. Each cheese is then left to drain undisturbed before being packed, which helps keep the texture as light and delicate as possible.
We’re very proud of our Somerset Ricotta, which has no milk added to it (unlike many of the varieties you find these days). Light and fresh tasting, it is creamy and slightly grainy in texture, with a pleasant saltiness and a rich dairy flavour. A highly versatile cheese, Ricotta is delicious simply spread on toast with jam or olive oil, drizzled with honey as a quick dessert, or used in cakes and puddings (try it in a cheesecake instead of cream cheese). It also makes a lovely addition to savoury pasta or pastry dishes.
Made from the same rich unpasteurised milk as our Cheddar and Caerphilly cheeses, Westcombe Red is our take on a traditional Red Leicester. We started making this in the early 2000s, after a visit from food writer and cheese expert Sarah Freeman. Sarah was lamenting the absence of any traditional Red Leicester at that time and challenged us to bring this cheese back from extinction. Well, we couldn’t resist a challenge like that…
Falling somewhere between our complex Cheddar and more delicate Aged Caerphilly, Westcombe Red is a mellow but characterful semi-hard cheese with a smooth, somewhat crumbly texture. Made in traditional cloth-bound ten kilo wheels and aged for around five months, Westcombe Red boasts a good depth of flavour with lasting notes of roasted nut and fresh summer grass.
Since we started making Westcombe Red, we are pleased to see that traditional Red Leicester is once again being made in its home county by Sparkenhoe Farm. It’s good to know Westcombe Red isn’t alone in flying the flag for artisan red cheese!
While we strive for perfection in our Unpasteurised Cheddar, we’re not averse to making variations now and then to spice things up. Brickellwood is the smoked version of our award-winning Cheddar, which is made by smoking smaller, two kilo rounds over smoldering cherrywood for 12 hours.
The result is a richly aromatic, russet-hued cheese with a deep smoky flavour. While some of the subtleties of the Cheddar are masked by the smoking, there is an intriguing interplay of tangy and woody flavours that creates a very satisfying effect. Brickellwood makes an interesting addition to the cheeseboard, but we always find it comes most alive in the kitchen, adding a smoky depth and richness to all sorts of dishes and snacks.
Just as we adopted our Aged Caerphilly from the Duckett family, so we inherited this variation on it. Inspired by the Caerphilly’s fresh lactic tang, the Duckett’s added chopped chives to complement the cheese’s flavour. We continue this tradition today, using pasteurised milk to make the cheese and scattering chives through the centre of each round.
Wedmore is a cheese that really captures the flavours of the lush Somerset countryside. Balancing the zesty dairy flavours of Caerphilly with the delicate oniony sweetness of chives, this cheese is a real summer delight. Perfect for picnics, packed lunches and especially good grilled on toast or over vegetable gratins.
In addition to Wedmore, we also make Smoked Wedmore by smoking whole Wedmore rounds over cherrywood for 12 hours. Because of the size of the rounds, the smoke doesn’t permeate too deeply into the cheese – leaving the zesty and oniony flavours intact – but it adds a lovely bonfire-like fragrance to the softer area under the rind which is absolutely delicious.