Alsop & Walker Cheese (meeting Arthur, Nick & the cheese!)

Hand crafted, specialty cheese made in East Sussex, produced using a combination of traditional and modern methods.

We arrived as Nick and Arthur were busy making brie and blue cheese (the Sussex Blue & Sussex Brie).

Arthur explained the cheese making process, showing us where the Milk was pasteurised and pumped into the vat. The milk is then brought up to temperature depending on the cheese to be made, culture is added and once cultivated in goes the rennet. This starts to set, at which point Nick or Arthur begin cutting into squares, the temperature is adjusted then it’s ready to be put into the cheese moulds. Nick was busy turning the cheese in the moulds by hand as we toured the cheese making unit.

Once the cheese is lovingly made it’s moved to the maturing rooms where the cheese rounds were piled high on shelves in the specially heated rooms.

Alsop and Walker produce a whole range of cheese, hard, semi-hard, mature, soft and blue. Their aim was to create a good variety of cheeses suitable to fill a cheese board and the tasting proved that’s just what they’ve achieved.

A cheese for all tastes and occasions to suit varying palettes and satisfy even the most scrupulous cheese lover! (Katie).

The Weald Smokery (Meeting Andrew, Ian and Kirsty)

Stepping into the Weald Smokery Delicatessen and Brasserie set on the Kent and Sussex border, is a true feast for the eyes, like children in a candy store Katie and I became increasingly excited by the array of fine foods adorning the shelves of the shop while delightful smells greeted us from the Kiln Room Brasserie. Luckily for us Andrew, the owner, who we were due to meet with was being distracted by a customer which gave us more time to croon over the beautiful wide selection of smoked meats and fish, neatly hung in the chiller fridge.

After pleasant introductions, it was straight down to business, the tour of the smokehouse and food preparation rooms! We could quickly see why the Weald Smokery have received such a host of awards for their produce. There’s a stark contrast between the high-tech, spotlessly clean preparation rooms and the smokehouse which houses both traditional brick kilns used for cold-smoking and the kilns built by local craftsmen to their very own specification which burn open fires of seasoned Kent and Sussex oak for all the famous hot smoked produce. 

Heading into the smokehouse we pass a pile of oak logs, freshly cut by hand, axe leant against the wall! Andrew opens the door of one of the kilns to show us where the open fire is lit and pulls out the rack where the meat or fish are hung to cook and or smoke. We then view a cold smoke brick kiln which is gently smoking some beautiful looking local venison. The Weald Smokery have truly embraced the traditional methods used in their craft, making them officially one of the best artisan food producers operating in the UK today. We look forward to stocking our fridge with their fantastic produce.

meat

Bean Smitten Coffee (Meeting Darren)

A small independent coffee roaster based on the Kent and East Sussex border. Bean Smitten owned by Darren Tickner roast only premium, speciality grade coffee which is fair traded and can be traced to a single farm, estate or farmers’ co-operative.

We visited the roastery on a rather chilly frosty morning and was overjoyed to be met by the warm and comforting aromas of coffee being roasted as we entered the premises. Darren and Alison were busy producing their classic blend coffee when we arrived. The coffee is hand-roasted in batches no more than 6kg at a time on the Giesen roaster. Each batch is taste tested and the roast profile adjusted until the optimum balance of taste and mouthfeel is reached.

Darren showed us a selection of the coffee beans he sources from various regional coffee farms and estates, we were amazed to learn the beans varied considerably in size, shape and aroma and even discovered a variety of bean that are naturally dried and removed from the cherry fruit to allow even more flavour to penetrate the bean.

Bean Smitten currently offer a range of nine different coffees in their beautiful 250g retail pouches, the classic blend is their best seller (a blend of coffee from Brazil - Fazenda Rainha Da Paz, Honduras - Finca Altos De Erapuca and Sumatra - Jagong Village) which we had the opportunity to taste during our visit and we certainly weren’t disappointed…a beautifully smooth but strong tasting coffee with satisfying chocolaty after taste, we were sold! 

Kingcott Dairy (meeting Karen and the girls)

Kingcott Dairy is an incredible example of a farm offering fully traceable produce and they certainly know what makes great tasting milk and cheese…happy, healthy cows! To produce their high-quality, milk their cows are very well looked after from the food that they eat to the condition of their feet. During the spring and summer the cattle graze the lush pastures around the farm, sometimes right into November if fine weather allows. Truly free range cattle!

Over winter the cows are housed in spacious sheds and enjoy home-grown fodder which is where they were when I visited on a rather frosty January morning. Some of the 300 cows were expectant mums awaiting the arrival of their calves and a few recent arrivals were getting to grips with life on the farm in the nursery area. Calving takes place all year round at Kingcott Dairy to give a steady supply of milk. The Kingcott herd of cows is a closed herd which means there’s no need to buy in replacement animals, all new stock is born and bred on the farm, with the cow families remaining for generations, mothers, aunts, daughters and even great grand-daughters providing the milk.

Fresh milk from the milking parlor is pumped straight into the bottling area where the Kentish Milk is produced and bottled at source then shipped out to customers that very afternoon or alternatively pumped directly into the cheese room, where production of their award-winning Kentish Blue cheese will begin at 6am. Karen uses the fresh warm cow’s milk as soon as it is produced, which naturally makes it around the right temperature for cheese making.

The Kentish Blue cheese is made using traditional methods and is pierced by hand to allow the familiar blue veining to develop inside. Careful nurturing is needed during the maturing time, the family turn and rub cheeses regularly. After 2½ to 3 months the wheels have ripened to become the delicious cheese that is wrapped and delivered to the cheese shops of Kent, ready for us all to enjoy! The Kentish Blue is a young blue cheese with a firm but moist texture, it has gentle smooth flavors on the first bite developing into a long lasting pleasant aftertaste.