It’s cheese day! Time to bundle in the car and head up to Preston to replenish our dwindling cheese supplies. After all, the people of Stretford appear to be VERY good at eating cheese so it doesn’t tend to stick around long. Preston’s a veritable gold mine of cheese production with three very interesting and very different dairies inhabiting a single postcode.
OK, so these dairies do deliver and I know it would probably be much easier to get them to drop the stuff off on their rounds but there’s something very lovely about picking it off the shelves myself while hearing which is the cheese makers favourite cheese and which one has been the biggest pain in the arse to make.
First stop is Greenfield’s, the smallest on the round. We’ve been told to get there ASAP because they like to finish early on a Friday (apparently the cow related industry is jam packed with early risers). My first couple of trips to Greenfield’s were greeted with some surprise – apparently it’s relatively unusual for their customers to rock up in a car to pick up an order and proceed to spend about 20 minutes roaming around the store room gazing at all the cheese – but they’re more used to it now and are happy to let me have a look at all the cheese making stuff. I’m even introduced to the head cheese man which leaves me a little star struck. I’ve gone for lots of the flavoured cheeses this month as they seemed to go down well last month but don’t quite go as far as purchasing the apparently popular chilli-con-cheddar.
Next up is Carron Lodge, a national distributor and an altogether bigger affair. I don a high vis and am taken to be shown around by a somewhat bemused employee. Carron Lodge stock and distribute cheeses from all over Europe so their warehouse is packed with the weird and wonderful, though I’m only really interested in the cheeses they make themselves. The great thing about Carron Lodge is that they have their own smoke house and can apparently smoke anything with only a few hours notice (posing the immediate challenge of working out what is the coolest thing I could get smoked though apparently neither beer, bread nor jam would work). We pick up some smoked stilton and smoked cheddar but decide against the smoked feta this time (amazing!) We also settle on some delicious cloth-wrapped red leicester and a ‘true grit’ super mature cheddar, imbued with many of those lovely little salt crystals that set apart a really great cheddar.
Our final stop is the Dew Lays factory which is set up to be a much more visitor friendly experience and has a small museum area as well as a farm shop selling astonishingly expensive Cheshire chorizo. By now I’m pretty well laden down with cheese but can’t resist a couple of moons of Garstang Blue, the creamy texture and delicate palate of which can engage even the faddiest of cheese eaters.
Before I started Sip Club my warped urban mind laboured under the expectation that everything I consumed must be created on such a huge industrial scale that the people creating it were totally detached from the finished product. It’s heartening to find so many people so locally who spend their days crafting relatively small scale high quality food products. I only wish I had their dexterity.