Named after iconic cheesemaker and champion of British cheese James Aldridge, St James is produced by Martin Gott at the Holker Estate in Cumbria, northern England.
Martin learned cheesemaking from Graham Kirkham (Kirkham’s Lancashire) and Mary Holbrook before setting up his own business. Despite some early setbacks, Martin and his partner Nicola have now bought and established a flock of Lacaune ewes, a breed that originated in the Auvergne region of France.
Made from unpasteurized sheep’s milk, St James is a square shaped, washed-rind cheese weighing between 3-4 lbs.
The sheep are milked only in the mornings and the milk is pumped, still warm, directly through from the milking parlor into the cheesemaking room.
For production, the temperature of the milk in the vat is increased slightly and a bulk starter culture (MT36) added. The milk is allowed to sit for about half an hour to ripen before the rennet is added. Within about ninety minutes, the milk has coagulated and is cut into half inch squares, left for twenty minutes to allow some of the whey to drain off and then scooped into cloth lined molds. The cloths play an important part of the draining process since they help draw out moisture from the curd and therefore assist in the development of the rind. They are also tightened periodically to put pressure on the curd mass and squeeze out more moisture which is essential if the cheese is to mature with a supple and smooth texture.
The newly formed cheeses are left overnight to drain and towards the end of the day, heavy steel “followers” are placed on top to complete the draining process. After removing the cloth, the cheeses are turned out onto racks for 24 hours in the warm, humid salting room before dry salt is applied to their rinds on day three or four. On day five, the wheels are transferred to maturing rooms where they are washed regularly to encourage the development of the Brevibacterium linens culture that gives the cheese its distinct rind and flavor.