Spotlight on Long Clawson Dairy
We’re really excited to be stocking Long Clawson Stilton for Xmas 2022. I recently visited Long Clawson (both the creamery and a local farm that supplies milk) before committing to working with them this year, to learn more about not only their business and methods, but also their milk and farmers.
There are only 5 makers of Stilton in the world, much of this down to the strict PDOs that require all Stilton to be made not only traditionally, but also in the counties of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire or Derbyshire. There is also a requirement that all of the milk be sourced from the same counties, unless the supply isn’t sufficient. What this can mean is that at Christmas, the busiest time of the year, milk is sourced from across the UK. However Long Clawson have the supply to ensure that the milk is local year round.
In fact, their milk is more than just local, all of the 30 farms that produce milk for Long Clawson are within 30 miles of the creamery. What’s more, every one of those farmers owns the business. This makes it one of only 2 Stilton makers that are co-operatives. This means that the interests of the business and the farmers are truly aligned, and ensures that the business isn’t run purely commercially, but also in the interests of sustainable and responsible farming.
Long Clawson formed in 1917 by 7 farmers, and the farm I visited in October is still owned by one of those founding families.
I was fascinated speaking to them about their farming practices and learning how they moved away from soy feed sourced from South America, and now source soy accredited as not contributing to deforestation. Use of soy at Long Clawson overall has been halved across the 30 farms from 12 to 6% of the feed. We very much hope this continues to fall over the coming years.
One of the main reasons I maintain such a close relationship with all of our cheesemakers, and visit them regularly, is to ensure they continue to pursue the most responsible practices that align with those of us at cheesegeek, and our customers.
Following the entire cheesemaking process, I was quite frankly stunned at the application of technology whilst ensuring that nothing is lost from the end product in terms of quality and craftsmanship.
Rich, the head cheesemaker has been at the business for 35 years now, spending over 20 of those as head cheesemaker. In fact, since Long Clawson formed, they have had only a handful of head cheesemakers. So how do you strike the balance between tradition, and technological advancement?
The best example of this was the curds. Hand-ladling curds is generally accepted as one of the most important elements of artisan cheesemaking, as it ensures the curds are treated as gently as possible, and they can retain the optimal flavour for producing fantastic cheese. Disrupted curds lead to sub-optimal cheese.
Hand-ladling however does impact scalability, which isn’t an issue for the vast majority of our cheesemakers who are small-scale by their nature, but certainly is for Stilton given its huge demand both within the UK and globally.
Long Clawson has addressed this issue by not having the curds ladled at all! They are not even touched between VAT and moulds. I won’t give away all their trade secrets but suffice to say the only way of treating curds more gently than by hand, is not at all!
Throughout the cheesemaking process, there is a clear theme that technology exists only to support the skill of the cheesemaker, and not to replace. And within that, advancement is overseen not by accountants and the board, but by cheesemakers themselves. This ensures that there is never a cost to quality. This was fully endorsed by Long Clawson winning the only Super Gold for a Whole Stilton at the 2021 World Cheese Awards, officially crowning it as the World’s Best Stilton.
Not only are we excited to be sending out such a great Stilton, our batches will also be the best of the best. This is because only the highest graded truckles, as assessed by Long Clawson’s master grader, will make it onto our shop. We will also be taking all the cheeses whole and cutting them fresh to order. So you simply won’t get it better anywhere else!
All in all, we’re delighted to be sending out Long Clawson Stilton this Christmas. An absolutely delicious, award-winning, traditional Stilton that would grace any Christmas cheeseboard.Edward Hancock (founder of cheesegeek)