#TNCN Meet Stichelton with Joe Schneider, the rebel blue from Stilton country
Streamed live on Dec 8, 2020
Stichelton Blue Cheese Episode Video Transcript
Right we’re live sorry we were supposed to have a nice brand there, let’s do a bit of that it’s Tuesday Night it’s Cheese Night it’s time to talk cheese with just what is it two weeks left to go three weeks left to go before Christmas
We are juicing up our cheese boards and we have the most awesome the most legendary the most fantastic man um that’s a really good look as your camera froze there joe Joe Schneider of Stitcherton derry how are you doing joe i’m very good how are you uh very well very well i see you’re tucking into your beer as well so cheers happy christmas happy v day because it’s it’s v day today i don’t know if you knew that yes it is it is so all is going extremely well in the world as we know it kind of uh but we’re going to talk a different kind of inoculation tonight we’re going to talk blue we’re talking about penicillin rock 40. we’re going to talk about stitchelton thou shalt not call thyself stilton and uh and you know allegedly the oldest greatest cheese in the book so tell us about yourself joe be verbose [Music] uh you’ll it won’t take you long if you don’t know me and you’re listening to my accent you can tell i’m not a native of nottinghamshire but i’ve been living in england for 22 years can you believe that so i can say legitimate for a long time uh and this is my third project that i’ve done i’ve been you know i used to live in sussex in forest road you probably know that right down my new neck of the woods yes that’s that that was my first cheese making job in england oh wow so so what you know without revealing any dirty secrets how old are you then um i would have been in my uh late twenties okay all right so did you have a background did you would your parents make cheese why cheese what brought you in oh well i ended up i followed a woman was she a cheese was she making cheese no she was just beautiful i caught her though so okay so that is okay and was cheese your wooing technique was going to come taste my cheese not really no i was an american living in holland making greek cheese for a turk that’s how i got started okay that makes that’s so obvious i probably could have guessed that without any difficulty so you were in holland you come over to the uk you start making cheese down in sussex and i’m assuming at some point you met randolph and that must have been sort of the beginning of the stitchelton journey well yeah um so just at the end of that sussex project i was trying to get into neil’s yard dairy with my cheese and then i took on my second project which was in the cotswolds at uh dalesford okay work with um it was sir anthony then i think it’s lord anthony now and lady bamford okay yeah there it is yeah i started the creamery at dallsford and when the cheese was ready we made it sort of a little 10 kilo cheddar type cheese uh i invited randolph to come and taste it and he started buying it and that’s when we struck up a friendship so that would have been in 2000 2001 2002 something like that so still at the beginning well yeah a little bit into the cheese renaissance so randolph is in his hand hodgson at neil’s yard is in his stride uh and he’s looking around for people who are making cheese with heritage with provenance and with heart at that point and this is when you guys met yeah and don’t forget um i’m a little bit unique in the cheese world because i’m not attached to a farm so all of my cheese making colleagues they are living on their family farms and making cheese on their family they’re not sort of free to roam around and do different things really i was kind of like a gun for hire i suppose um just somebody who came and really committed to making cheese so i could take on different projects yeah and some yeah so at some point you decided that you’d try and have a crack at unpasteurized still did you think of other things to do before that i mean i’m pastor i still hadn’t been made at that point for what 14 years 15 years not since 1988 88 i thought was 89 but yeah so so so it was within it was christmas of 88 and then they start new year’s eve so so so let’s just let’s put a bit of history onto that one um in christmas of 88 somebody was having a dinner party was it actually a member of parliament that’s the story i heard and he managed to poison his his guests um and he blamed it on the stilton which at that point the only unauthorized still to make her was colston bassett um and there was a bit of a hullabaloo and it made national press and the other stilton members this is the story i hold i i kind of romance it a bit just to make it sound good stormed up to his up to colton bassett’s door and said thou shalt not make stilton because you’re sinking the whole ship from now on you got to pasteurize it is that about right i think everybody’s heard a different embellishment of that story but the um the kernel of the of the story is true uh colson bassett was the last dairy making ramen cheese and they stopped voluntarily but under pressure from the others still to make so it wasn’t a lot of people are confused about that they think that the law says that you can’t make unpasteurized still and it doesn’t uh it’s the um pdo protection that prevents me from that and not something that the stilton makers entered voluntarily nobody forced them to stop but i think it was the pressure of the larger more commercial stilt makers on colston bassett because of that incident uh and we’re just talking about hippie tummies and stuff nobody nobody died or anything um that they stopped and and was it an mp was it an mp because what i heard is the only reason all right no i hadn’t heard that part of this story okay well until i’m contradicted i’m going to go on saying that that’s true because i always like a an embellished story there so so still turn is like unpasteurized stilton as a concept as an idea as an art is lying fallow sitting there until you and randolph i’m guessing in a pub somewhere came up with this idea to to recreate it i mean am i again embellishing it or is it something like that well you’re giving me too much credit so the whole idea was forced it upon me in a pub applied me with several pints of beer and said hey i’ve got this cool idea do you want to try to make an unpasteurized stilton in in england and i said yeah that’s a great idea too can i have another pint please and uh what i didn’t know about randolph back then he’s like johnny appleseed he just plants little seeds of ideas and then they they grow in your head uh out of your control so i found myself thinking more and more about it and he would talk to me about it and say yeah serious i want to do this i used to sell randolph used to sell unpasteurized cheese in his shop on pasteurized stilton in the 1980s and he remembered how glorious it was and they wanted to bring it back so uh so is it your company or his company or shared experience or when is it is it joe schneider incorporated what’s the what’s what’s the deal up there in wilbeck well i’m really glad you asked that because i’m really proud of how we set it up so we have three shareholders in the in the company uh we are in partnership with the farm so we didn’t have two or three million quid to buy a dairy farm so we had to find somebody to work with in the right company rebecca state had um a beautiful barn 250 year old barn and beautiful cows and a lovely herdsmen and a huge pile of money so we and randolph and i came and met them and we we formed a company when they said oh yeah we’d like to do that project so the farm the milk producer is a shareholder right i’m a shareholder and he’ll see our dairy so you’ve got the producer of the milk the processor of the cheese and the marketing side okay so it’s it’s it’s it’s right up down the down the um uh there’s the trade from from from from the counter plate yeah exactly so i’m really proud of that setup it works so well for us um and and when did you make your first cheese uh 14 years ago 2006. and when did you sell your first cheese we didn’t we put it in a horse box and dragged it away and stuck so i probably owe somebody some money for that but it was a lot of cheese it was everything we made for a month we just threw it away oh my god so there’s a cheesy it’s a cheesy sinkhole that is probably an environmental nightmare out there somewhere full of your learnings it you know in a hundred years it’ll be excavated by archaeologists and it will puzzle them for years it’ll be this big ball of calcium and it’s a meteorite what’s happened here so i think it’s probably working through the earth by now so so it’s uh so so back in 2006 you said you made your cheese it took your month to get close um i mean you must have you know it’s hard to make good cheese it’s harder to make good unpasteurized cheese so what were your challenges and how did you overcome them we’re still trying to overcome them it’s uh yeah as you say unpasteurized cheese is um a different beast altogether from pasteurized cheese because you’re working with a living product and the analogy i like to use is you’re more of a shepherd you’re sort of a bacteria farmer and you’re trying to shepherd bacteria to go left and right and it’s very difficult but if you pasteurize the milk you start with a clean palate and you have more control and then also uh my cheddar making friends are going to disagree but really making cheddar is a dog it’s the blue cheeses and the sauce that’s really difficult a little bit finicky very temperamental they go off the rails very easy so it’s a steep learning curve so so for the for our cheese making watchers or people who are cheese inside a cheese which is like a big petri dish right a cheese is basically a petri dish and you’ve got these competing microorganisms whether they’re molds or yeasts or bacteria and they interleave so you might get early growth of this tile style that their knee is knocked back by the next star and each one impacts on flavor in its own while so so it’s not just the fact that you’ve got these bacteria or yeast molds contributing they’ll contribute at different times during the make and the maturing so so is that that’s what you’re talking about isn’t it it’s like making sure every organism plays its part when it’s supposed to yeah and you’ve got the added dimension the blue teeth has changed direction so you know like a cheddar it’s ripening from the inside out and it’s going in that direction pretty much his whole life when you pierce blue cheese you are literally turning its acidification profile in the other direction so you start to become less acid as the blue develops other microbes are now coming to the fore and other ones are finding uncomfortable and they’re not surviving so so just just run through okay so it’s a three month cheese roughly depends on the time of year but between uh i’d say yeah say three and a half months to five five months okay so when you when you’re making your your cheese you’re making it as a crumbly a british territorial crumbly you’re adding penicillium rock 40 as one would expect um when are you piercing it we pierce a little bit later than other stilton makers so we’re piercing it six and seven weeks so we pierce it twice [Music] and i i think the reason we love to do that is we want the cheese itself to have time to develop flavor and mellow and mature a bit um as much as i would like to just sell you water i could pierce it early and sell you lots of water by weight but we want the cheese to um to breathe a bit lose a bit of moisture and mellow itself before we start the blowing process okay so the needles have gone in the blue is activated for lack of a better phrase um do you do you like stilton makers pierce only from the sides i appear yeah i’ve got a piece of machine that goes in from the sides you should you should have started your question with a disclaimer because this is a very sensitive subject oh is it a costed bike all the time who tell me how blue cheese is turned blue and it involves copper wires involves all sorts of funny things and you have to be careful of disabusing somebody of some romantic notion they’ve got so if you don’t want to know the football score look away now why not we just poked boring old stainless steel needles into the side of the cheese at six and then again except the air goes in the blue wakes up she goes and she takes another so what you say six or seven weeks and you’re looking for three and a half to five and a half months so she’s got um one another she’s got two two to two to two to four months with the blue developing inside yeah yeah it depends on the moisture content the condition of the milk the time of year so like these keys that i made i’ve got in front of me now this was made in september lots of butter fat in the milk and it’s already pooling lovely nectar on the board beneath me a lot of fun okay sure and it’s breaking down quickly so this is but it’s already going soft and good okay bring it up bring it up the camera look at that rind collapsing because it’s so soft and delicious but we do that on purpose to get cheese christmas you can see okay yeah so when you talk about that cheese neck toast talk about that cheese next what is it it’s odo it’s what oh joe it’s uh is that your what your wife says yeah we’re gonna make a fortune it just tastes delicious out of the piercing holes comes this clean it’s not clear it’s like amber liquid it’s the fat and the proteins breaking down from the blue uh and it’s got a lot of sweetness and saltiness and it’s just ambergris nectar of the gods make sure the guards can do you don’t get you can’t you can’t milk it like a rubber tree no but if i press down on that i’d get some sometimes the only word to use when we’re turning a soft cheese like that the only appropriate word to use is ejaculate the cheese ejaculates on us yeah and we get juice all over our arms and sometimes face it’s a hazard okay didn’t expect that tonight but you know that kind of thing can be unexpected so once you’re cheesy once your cheese ejaculates on you are you thinking to yourself this is our apart this is ready to go this is when it’s going to be at its best yeah yeah so we um we don’t sell it’s funny if you come into our maturing rooms they don’t seem to mature in date order like you can’t just pick uh cheese to sell by date they all have their own personality younger ones or sometimes go faster than older ones uh and even within the batch uh they won’t mature at the same rate so we have to iron each one wow which ones are ready and and so release your secrets into the wild why what what is what is it what is pushing is it surely cheese is the same batch it’s a sort of rule of thumb that those cheeses do mature in the same way but why you’ve got cheese in the same batch moving in different directions i think it’s just i don’t know what i’m doing okay sarah how it is joe act with uh confidence and assurance yeah consistently one of the things we’re famous for yeah okay so you are consistently inconsistent you’re riding the wave of opportunity and let the microorganisms do their wild thing as and when they see fit we tried to shepherd them but i i’m not under the illusion that i’m under complete control so what i love uh about stitchelton um the analogy i like to use when you’re making it it’s like uh you know that uh sport it’s the only sport where british people do well um winter olympics curling right all right yeah yeah so digital 10 is a cheese of initial conditions so i have to set up the milk at exactly the right temperature i have to add homeopathic amounts of starter i have to get the set just right and then there’s nothing else i can do i have to wait 24 hours to see what comes out so cheddar you can scald earlier you can stir more you can pitch earlier you have you have levers and buttons you can press stitchelton is all about the initial condition so once you let go of the stone and you’re excited for that thing uh you know that you make it sound like even more difficult than curling at least with curling you can get that guy with the brush you know you don’t even have that you go home and you come back in the morning to see where your puck has landed yeah yeah nightmare right well come on taste with us take us through do a master class tasting of your your the most individual of british cheeses um and are you going to taste it yeah i know i’ve already eaten a fair amount next i’m on my way man okay you know what i love about it is um the smell on it is sort of toasting biscuity it’s really rich digested and this is a really lovely soft cheese with good bluing have i got the same cheese as you i think they’re from the same month okay yeah yours looks pretty sticky yeah come on you can see oh yeah that’s the 6th of uh september yes boss thousands will believe you so so i’m going to i’m going to bring this on what we’ve got going on here is a very nice spread of the blue right across the cheese here so it’s getting it’s not heavily concentrated in the center and it goes easily nicely and you’re getting evidence of the some of the the the um the needling but you’ve got nice little open packets and when i was just saying to joe before we we started that um my cheese when i opened it the the blue had fallen back to your phrase had gone back to sleep and so very pale hints of light green and within i don’t know an hour i’m getting that really distinctive blue green um becoming very dominant in the color terms and and and i love that fact that this cheese is it’s alive it’s alive in every real sense of the word yeah that’s magic like when we go to a market or something you cut open the cheese and it’s you think oh look it’s really pale it hasn’t blew up in 30 minutes it just uh it’s just come it’s not uh it blossoms right in front of you it’s imagine i think blossoms is the right word i love the way that it comes around um and it starts almost like talking at you it’s saying okay i’m ready to party so if you’ve got jesus as this you must have different profiles that you like like you like it when it’s like this and like it when it’s like that yeah um but i think i i like i like it now for the main reason that most people like stilton at christmas there’s something about that sort of late summer early autumn milk uh you’re not out on fresh grass anymore so the cow’s getting more you know dry matter not just lots of um water fresh grass the fats are going up again you get really lovely creamy milk and it produces these beautiful unctuous nectar sweet syrupy diseases that i think is part of the reason that certain became associated with christmas because the cheese is made in the in the summer and were ready for christmas and that was the best milk and it produced that kind of seductive delicious [Music] softer version of itself our winter cheeses are much more lactic acid harder they take longer to break down they’re more um savory meat juicy but i like these sort of uh syrupy sweetness they’re delicious when do your when do your cows come in so when do you move on to the winter feed and well our cows are out all year at least you know for a trundle in the day they walk around not that they’re finding much to eat so probably um uh october-ish they’re going more and more onto a winter ration okay um i’m going to be honest it’s the best of your cheeses i have ever had um i love the fact that it’s retained um you called it syrupy which i thought was wrong and then i thought about it and i’m actually really bonding with that description it’s got um it’s not uh it’s not got a soft wetness it’s got a soft cream um a syrupyness which is both in the texture and in the flavor it’s got a really distinctive mushroominess which has on one sense it’s kind of a dry mushroom flavor on a creamy texture does that make sense so you’re getting a sense of that pecan see which i’m really enjoying well with as you’re talking about that a little bit of bitterness but the bitterness is very beer hoppy kind of it’s very very much a vegetal bitterness not a chemical bitterness if you know what i mean yeah well our cheese goes through a stage we call the bitterness of youth so when it’s young it is quite bitter in that kind of way you describe but it moves out as it matures so this is just leaving the bitterness of youth behind i love that is the bit of bitterness of youth the before after it ejaculates before so it’s like creepy bitterness so it’s it’s like it’s like a stroppy teenager uh and then it and then it it works out what its purpose is in life and and moves on it mellows out there so do you make any other cheeses no cheese is like a mistress one is enough okay that’s one way of putting it if you were to make another cheese what would you like to have a crack at you you broke up there what did you ask me if you were to make another cheese what would you like to have a crack at well i have made other cheeses before i’d like to go back to something really simple like a farmhouse cheddar are you saying that just to wind up people like jamie oh yeah my phone’s gonna start ringing any minute well it’s been friend what you there i was going to say um we haven’t really brought up covid discussion but we’ve been doing all right but i have to say i was most nervous the point i really felt like oh my god the world is crumbling uh was when jamie montgomery appeared on instagram i thought that really is a sign that uh if he feels that he’s i miss that what did he do on instagram he’s on it you know is he yeah is he still on it i must go and find him we must go and find i mean you’re on instagram that’s well it’s one of the seven seals of armageddon when jamie montgomery is on instagram okay i will bear that in mind and for those people out there that are watching this we must go and find the most curious i mean i hope i hope he’s doing well um i know that we were talking about earlier the cheddar boys you know they’ve got options during covid they can stop making and just draw down on their on their big uh warehouses of cheese and sell it off and keep the system going that way or they can build they can keep on making what they don’t sell they can just keep it for maturing longer so they’ve got options you’ve got maybe you know a month before it starts going a bit sideways on you yeah yeah so that hit us hard in may uh earlier march uh we didn’t sell any cheese for three weeks lockdown hit restaurants closed shops didn’t know how to deal with it no orders for three weeks and we thought oh dear what’s going on uh and cheese keeps ripening you can’t stop it and as you say our cheese doesn’t have much of a it’s not very forgiving when it’s ripe it has to go so we’re a little bit better off than say a soft fresh cheese um but we don’t have much time so i was getting more and more nervous with this amount of cheese building up behind me and a lot of my friends had the same problems but my cheddar making friends they saved up problems for later so you know they made their christmas cheese two years ago but like you said they’re either going to have a huge hole in their age profile or a lot but it just they just haven’t had to deal with it yet no but they do have orchards they can that hole doesn’t have to be a steep glut they can ease their way in and ease their way out and they will be fine as you say it’s the it’s the breeze and and the fresh cheeses and that that there you know there is no there’s no way through it it’s got to go when it’s got to go so they’re the ones who had to stop and that you’re right except um that only um pertains if you have somewhere else to sell your milk so if you’re using all your milk cheese making whether you’re making cheddar or lancashire or whatever uh and you feel like you want to take your foot off the accelerator a bit you got to sell that milk on the spot market or something for almost nothing or tip it down the drain i i guess it’s not as easy as we’re making up you know they didn’t have as many options no no lots of people have really struggled um and uh jamie the naked chef has to get a bit of a thank you here he did dig a lot of people out the hole um with work he did in what was it um april or whatever so um not normally someone who dabbles in our industry but he made a big difference so we should thank him huge difference yeah really an amazing guy uh worked with nielsen dairy to support british farmhouse cheese making came up with this box scheme we were in the first box and he just comes on instagram he talks for like 15 minutes about it and neil zhard thought they were going to sell 3 000 boxes in a week and i think they sold out in three or four hours it was incredible so it literally soaked up 90 cheeses for us in a day you know that those cheeses that were just sitting there not doing anything what’s your moment so what’s your daily production sort of a dozen cheeses no no we can make about uh 36 cheeses a day but we don’t okay so what what so 90 cheeses is how much production well three days production about three days okay yeah but it also you know that momentum carried and sales um kept going after that not at that level but it helped us and it helped lots of cheese makers and it just reminded people if we’re gonna have a pandemic uh you’ve got to remember your local food producers so they don’t go out of business and people started to change i think the way they were shopping and they were looking for small producers to go out and support so that really helped us and now you were saying your cheese looking into christmas you’re just about sold out you’ve you’re clearing the decks yeah we have we um you and i were saying earlier you have to remember how you felt back in july when you’re trying to decide that’s when we start to think about our christmas production end of june early july and we were thinking what’s going to happen uh for christmas how much do we make it’s almost like a harvest you know you have to plant a hundred thousand it’s exactly like harvest yeah and if it doesn’t we were we were talking to delhi’s at that time because they they don’t have the same to have to make the same commitment as you but they’ve got to start planning for it um and there was a there was a general feeling of go big or go home it was like some people were choosing to hibernate until they were sure other people were going it needs to be a bloody good christmas otherwise we’re screwed so um let’s let’s just bet on a big one and i think those people are now reaping because the i talked to a lot of people selling stock out there right now no one get is getting what they want stock availability is all over the place it’s not just cheese yeah and we feel bad about it but you know we made a decision back then about it you know we had to sift through lots of different people’s optimism uh like you described this this guy’s very bullish this guy thinks it’s the end of the world yeah so we made a choice how much to make and we made less because we didn’t want to be faced with a mountain of stitching christmas no sure but i’m just i’m glad i’m glad that christmas is selling you out that that mean that is a good answer that’s one that’s one that was our stocking model when i was when i was a shopkeeper was i stopped to sell out for christmas you want empty shelves on christmas day and then you muscle through to because so well done um it’s been great to meet you joe thank you so much for sharing thank you so much for sending me one of the best pieces of blue cheese i have had certainly this year which has been an absolute pleasure to eat um and i hope that you personally have a very good christmas too charlie it’s lovely to see you catch you later bye right let’s quickly talk right next week thank you very much joe for coming on um he’s it’s such an interesting story to hear him talk about um everything that he’s done and the journey he’s take to to keep unpasteurized stealth and type cheese i’m not even sure what the rules are about using that word but uh in play because it is one of the great uh skills to work those together um so a fantastic job thank you for for working so hard on behalf of british cheese and have a great christmas turning to next week we are having a christmas party slightly different format people slide in format you need to register it’s going out um and we are going to have a big zoom meeting so we’re going to have a zoom tasting everyone can play we’re going to hear your voices it’s going to be very exciting i’m going to send out some links tracy from the academy is going to send out some links you just need to register and then you can come along you need you can taste your own cheese or you can get a cheese box which tracy will also be putting out to you guys and i will be putting out from the fine cheese company there will be three cheeses i can’t remember what they are but they’ll be great that’s the important thing so ruth from there we’ll be doing a i’ll be doing a chat we’ll be going some cheese rooms well i’ve got cheese rooms we’ll go to breakout rooms have a little chat uh and then at the end we’re gonna enable a little bit of pub so you can we’re going to give you your own room so you can choose your com who do you want to have a chat with um so have a little bit of a community end of the year session so stay with us for next week fantastic job so still training going on get your vouchers for your christmas training presents for next year so that your loved ones can be as interesting and amazing about cheese as you are see you later see you next week.