Anne is recognised among the very best British artisan cheesemakers, and supplies us with her three award-winning cheeses: Spenwood, Waterloo and Wigmore. She makes them with her husband Andy, and her team, in the village of Riseley. They’re just around the corner from Stratfield Saye Park – home to the Duke of Wellington, and the source of their Guernsey milk for many years.
Without a farm, Anne at first found it difficult to secure a milk supply. But she was keen to succeed: she’d learnt to make cheese at a dairy research institute, and then, in the 1980s, discovered a range of cheesemaking techniques while sailing around Europe. Most of all, she was inspired by the wonderful cheeses of Sardinia, made from ewe’s milk – particularly Pecorino Sardo. Her Spenwood is a similar style of cheese to this, while Wigmore is a soft, white-rinded cheese, like French Brie.
Today, Anne’s milk comes from Lacey’s Family Farm in High Wycombe. It changes throughout the year: when the cows are out to grass in the summer, the milk and cheese are more yellow, because of the carotene in the grass. In the winter, when the cattle are indoors and fed on silage, there are higher levels of solids in the milk, and less carotene, which can sometimes alter the colour slightly in the Waterloo cheese.
Traditional methods, sublime flavours
Looking back, Anne observes,
“In 30 years, hardly anything has changed in the way we make our three cheeses. Nothing has been automated, just improved. We’ve slowly increased production to up to about 1,300 cheeses a week, and taken on more staff to help with the workload. We’re constantly refining and tweaking the original recipes, to make improvements and keep continuity throughout the year with the changing milk over the seasons.”
There has been one important development, though: “We’re proud of our alternative to using disposable cheese cloths in the moulds. It felt wrong to see all those cloths going to land fill, so we came up with a plan to reduce our waste and impact on the environment. We now use cheese matting from France, and have it cut to size to fit the moulds. It’s washable, so we reuse it hundreds of times.”
Anne recommends baking Baby Waterloo or Wigmore with a sprig of thyme in the opened rind, and serving them with drizzled honey and warm crusty bread. For the Spenwood, she suggests scattering shavings on salads – or melting it on thick toast, and serving with caramelised onion chutney. Delicious.