Us cheesemakers often get asked what our typical day is like. People are always so curious to understand what a day in the life of a cheesemaker actually looks like! We decided to interview one of our fab team, Adele, to explain what the life of a cheesemaker is actually like!
(Update: Adele has since left our team to move on to pastures new after a great three years with us. Despite this, she is still involved with the dairy and our cheeses. Read on to the end of the interview to find out more about what Adele is up to now!)
Meet the cheesemaker - Adele Lippiatt
How did you get into cheese making?
I decided that after almost 25 years of teaching in Primary Schools I needed a much less stressful job! I still teach art and run my own business now as well as working two days in the dairy.
My three children went to school with the Trethowan children so I've known Todd and Jess (Trethowan) for many years and had visited the dairy and eaten Gorwydd on many class camping trips! When I saw the job advertised I thought 'why not give it a go!' I've been making cheese for three years now!
What does a typical day look like to you?
Where do I start? I'm usually the first up and the first to leave my house in the morning. My commute from Bristol to the dairy near Weston Super Mare is around half an hour's drive. It's a lovely journey in watching the sunrise, especially on a cold frosty morning with the mist rolling across the fields, or in the summer months, with the hot air balloons filling the skies above Bristol.
I arrive at work at 7.30am and get changed into my work clothes, including a very attractive blue hair net and white steel toe-capped boots; it's a great look! Once in the make room with my colleagues, it's all hands on deck to get the cheddars off the presses, bathed in water and the white smoother cloths put on them. Then it's on to another batch of 12 cheddars, getting them larded and clothed in traditional cheesecloth.
Larding has a real skill to it. Each person has their own technique of larding, lifting and turning the cheese but they all end up looking perfectly uniform once they've been in the press for a second time.
A typical day will involve turning the hundreds of Gorwydd cheeses in the storerooms, especially just before Christmas when the storerooms are full to bursting. Turning the 4kg cheese is a workout, it beats going to the gym!
I usually have my lunch early, around 10.30am, ready to do the stir. This involves stirring the curds and whey for around an hour to ensure there are no lumps or clumps or curd attached to the cutter in the vat. I love this process as I'm usually on my own in the make room and this is when I listen to my reggae music!
The afternoon is spent emptying and cleaning the vats down, milling, salting and pitchforking the cheddar curds (the process that cools down the curds and mixes the salt in evenly). We then fill the large cheddar tins with the curds, weighing them out on scales to ensure each one weighs the same, and then lift them back onto the press.
Making cheese is a very physical job and involves a lot of lifting, cleaning and, importantly, hand-washing! A Pitchfork cheddar make day is much longer than a Gorwydd Caerphilly day. The processes are quite different which affects the timings. I actually prefer doing the stir for the Gorwydd as it's a much gentler, slower process, trying to keep the curds in long ribbons that we call "worms"! (My longest worm to date is 22cms!) I always do my stir to reggae music, it keeps a nice gentle, steady rhythm, perfect for making the best cheese!
What do you love about cheese-making?
I love the fact that I can see the cows through our big gallery window. They have such great personalities and always look happy. I've named one of the brown Jersey cows 'Delilah'! I've been into the milking parlour many times to see how it all works and where our milk comes from.
I love being creative and working with my hands. Making cheese is a real hands on process and there's a very traditional skill in learning how to lard and cloth the cheddars. Seeing the perfectly formed cheeses coming out of the moulds gives me great pleasure!
I also love hearing how much people enjoy eating our cheese! The awards and trophies are an added bonus, being recognised for our work and being part of such a small team does mean that we've all had some input into making each of the award winning cheeses.
What's your favourite, Gorwydd or Pitchfork?
I prefer Gorwydd Caerphilly being Welsh, it's an interesting cheese that's got a great depth of flavour to it and looks beautiful too with it's dappled grey exterior and sharp creamy white centre! Pitchfork is also delicious, I mean, who doesn't like a traditional bold cheddar?
Is it always plain sailing in the dairy?
The small team that I work with works very well together. We do have good fun and are always laughing or singing in the make room but we are like a very well-oiled machine, we all have certain jobs that we do and we get the job done efficiently. And, let's face it, we produce the best cheese in the world! Something that we are all really proud of!
Occasionally we have the odd power cut or a piece of machinery decides not to work but on the whole, it's a very slick process, and working with a great team helps.
Any funny cheese stories?
As a child growing up in Wales the only cheese I would eat was caerphilly from the supermarket! It's funny how it's gone full circle and now I'm actually making it! Although ours tastes nothing like supermarket caerphilly.
I always take my Minirig speaker to work with me and crank up the tunes. Every Wednesday is a karaoke day in the make room! We always end our day playing Queen 'We are the champions"!
What would you recommend to anybody else who is interested in becoming a cheesemaker?
I'd say give it a go if the opportunity arises, it's certainly a job that is different from the norm! Whenever I go out people are always very interested to know all about my job and how I got into it! You need to be physically fit but it also keeps you very fit, I've got some good guns on me now! And, there's the added bonus of getting to eat world-class cheese on your lunch break!
Interested in knowing what Adele is up to now that she's left our team? Luckily we have not lost touch with the brilliant Adele for good as she is now working at the great new Bristol cheesemongers, North Street Cheese Shop! Adele works alongside our very own Kim Trethowan and our very own Tilly Trethowan! Instead of making caerphilly and Cheddar, Adele now gets to sell them to the public.
Gorwydd and Pitchfork are the shop specialities, so lucky for them that they have three team members with such fantastic knowledge of the cheeses! To read more about North Street Cheese Shop, read this article in the Bristol Post, and follow @northstreetcheeseshop on instagram.