On a cold, dreary February morning, the La Fromagerie team meet, ready to embark on a farm visit to King Stone Dairy, the makers of Rollright. At La Fromagerie, we’ve been selling Rollright since August 2015, when it first came to market, and it has been a staple favorite ever since.
A short train journey later, “we’re not in London anymore” is the general look on the cheesemongers’ faces. King Stone Farm seems the idyllic setting for traditional cheesemaking. No one is surprised when our taxi hobbles down a dirt track, and as we get out of the car it’s clear that the warning to “wear old shoes” is completely justified.
A cheerful man beckons us inside and we enter a modest room, which appears to serve as an office, changing room, break area, storage unit, and visitor reception. The walls are decorated with various competition ribbons, including “Best New Cheese” and “Best Cheese in Show” from the Artisan Cheese Awards in Rollright’s first year of production!
We recognize the cheerful man as David Jowett, the cheesemaker behind Rollright, although we are all somewhat taken aback by the fresh-faced 26-year-old whose reputation precedes him…
Even during trials in Rollright’s experimental stage, we were impressed by the flavors, rind, and texture of the cheese: a real demonstration of his expertise, no surprise since his CV includes Ram Hall Farm, Paxton and Whitfield, Berkswell, Stichelton, the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm, Neal’s Yard Dairy, and Gorsehill Abbey Farm (plus a diploma from the School of Artisan Food!).
Soon we’ll realize just how much David loves his job. While we don our protective gear and sanitize our hands, David tells us that we’ve arrived at a great time: The milk has been pasteurized and cooled to cheesemaking temperature, the cultures have been added, and it’s almost time to add the rennet.
As we enter the cheesemaking room, the excitement builds. David explains that the cultures have started converting the milk’s lactose into lactic acid. When the desired level is reached we watch David add the traditional rennet, coagulating the liquid milk. This is where David’s cheesemaking craftsmanship and experience are crucial: We see him judge the readiness primarily by touch and eye. After around 50 minutes David is happy with the consistency, in-between jelly and custard, and takes his cheese harp and cuts the curd. Some of the whey is released and the now hundreds of thousands of curd cubes can rest.
We then see the art at its finest, as David slowly starts to stir the curds–gently and with purpose–separating the particles, but careful not to damage the fragile pieces. The non-uniform size of the cubes remind us of the uniqueness of the cheese, the character of handmade production, and the romance of traditional cheesemaking. Once he’s happy with the consistency, David draws off more whey and the moulding begins. We watch in awe as the curds knit together.
David puts us to work turning the molds to help drain the whey and evenly shape the new cheeses. The pressure is written across each of our faces, but it certainly adds to our anticipation of receiving that specific batch of Rollright, which we can now legitimately say was made with the assistance of La Fromagerie hands.
We are beyond excited to receive our batch of “La Fromagerie Rollright” in store…but we realize that David has plenty of work still ahead of him; the days (and weeks) to come will involve salting, spruce-wrapping, brine-washing, ripening, turning, hand-packing, and all the admin that goes along with it. And only then will we be able to take all the credit for all of David’s hard work!
Forever the gracious host, David entertains our in-depth questions, doesn’t bat an eye over our geeky excitement, and rounds off a tour of the dairy by showing us the ripening rooms and talking through his plans for the future (which are very exciting!). During a 50 yard stroll down to the farm, David introduces us to the mixed herd, talks us through the milking parlor, and explains that the background music is, in fact, one of the cows’ favorite songs!
Before heading back to London, we make a quick detour, where we toast the well-deserved success of Rollright and raise our glasses to the exciting times ahead.
Throughout the day our admiration for David has grown. We always loved Rollright’s buttery, rich, mellow flavor, but when you see the level of care and passion that goes into each wheel there is no doubting why David Jowett has managed to make such a unique cheese, which we are proud to include on the Cheese Room’s shelves.
An unabridged version of this post originally appeared in La Fromagerie Cheesemongers’ newsletter. Thanks to La Fromagerie for sharing!