A lost cheese finds a new home and generation of fans
WRITTEN BY DEBORAH GRAY
Ceri Collingbourne was hard at work when I met her at Brinkworth Dairy. She was managing the production of four different cheeses made with the morning’s milk, freshly delivered from the pedigree Holstein Friesian herd, located just across the farmyard at Hill End Farm.
Collingbourne’s most intriguing cheese is her Wiltshire Loaf (formerly known as North Wiltshire). This cheese is mentioned in Jane Austen’s novel Emma: Mr. Elton boasts of it being offered at a fancy party he’d attended. Maybe Austen was partial to a little Wiltshire Loaf herself, enjoying it in nearby Bath?
However, Wiltshire Loaf became one of England’s many lost cheeses. Labor shortages during WWII forced cheese production into large factories where bulk cheeses were manufactured to feed the masses. Farmhouse cheesemaking with its variety and individuality all but ceased, and with it went the knowledge that had been passed down through the generations.
That changed when Collingbourne gave up her job as a science teacher to become a cheesemaker. She knew that Wiltshire Loaf had been made by her great grandfather and managed to track down the recipe from an elderly neighbor. Such was her success that her Wiltshire Loaf won the Best Territorial Cheese at the 2013 British Cheese Awards and remains a favorite with her customers.
The taste and smell of a Wiltshire meadow is evident in this semi-hard cheese. It has a bright yellow rind yielding to a pale-yellow paste that is both crumbly and creamy with a lingering aftertaste.
“I’m so proud to be making the cheese that my great grandfather made,” says Collingbourne, “and I love that it tastes fantastic, too.”
She molds the cheese before popping over to the barn to discuss the calves with her husband. This attention to detail is the key to her success— along with the rain watering the lush green fields of Hill End Farm.