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English Brie, Bigod it's good!

Let's not start a blog about British cheese by talking about the French; but it is impossible to do so when it's about Brie! I absolutely love the soft, gooey stuff that picks a fight with the yoghurts in the fridge overnight.

The French have this incredible thing called Brie De Meaux - from the town of Meaux in the Brie region - all fairly self explanatory. It is soft, with a white rind and a straw coloured paste. And, Like most French cheese it has an AOP (which translates as Protected Designation of Origin) which means to be called a "Brie de Meaux" a cheese must meet certain criteria...

"Let's not start a blog about British cheese by talking about the French"

But what has this got to do with anything I hear you ask...

On the outskirts of the market town of Bungay in Suffolk is Fen Farm Dairy, home of third-generation farmer Jonny Crickmore and his Wife Dulcie . They have had to diversify in recent years and now produce a range of raw butter and cheese driven by a regenerative approach to farming and a responsibilty for the environment. They use the natural warmth of the sleeping cattle through two miles of underground piping which then runs through the parlour and refrigeration units and so on, collecting the waste heat to warm the water for washing down the cheesemaking facilities. Genius!

"One of the loveliest cheeses I have ever tasted"

And this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the care that Jonny and Dulcie take of the land around them and the wider environment. So it is little wonder that ten years ago when they started on their cheese making journey in just two small rooms with Neal's Yard Dairy they took their time (two whole years) in creating what I believe is one of the loveliest cheeses I have ever tasted and you don't have to take just my word for it.

Baron Bigod (as in By-God it's good) was named Britain's Best Cheese in 2022/23. It is a soft, gooey (sometimes very runny), white rinded cheese, reminiscent of a traditional "Brie de Meaux" and created in much the same way. Jonny even travelled to France to hand-pick his herd of Montbeliarde cows which produce protein rich, full flavoured milk - perfect for cheesemaking.

"Baron Bigod (as in By-God it's good) was named Britain's Best cheese in 2022/23"

(From pasture to parlour and out the other side)

I was lucky enough to have a guided tour of the cheesemaking facility and I was staggered by the size of the place. There are rooms dedicated to each particular process, from pasteurising the milk and inoculating it with the starter cultures, to the acidification barrels, forming and moulding, aging the cheese (at different temperatures and humidity) and then cutting packing and wrapping each of the cheeses (done by hand). I was also slightly envious of the job of tasting the cheese - each batch is tested every two weeks to make sure it is only sold when it is right.

It takes several weeks and each cheese goes through a very specific process to produce this quite incredible English Brie.

Whilst I was there I stopped off at the "Milk Shed" onsite to top up on caffeine and curds. It is another quirky addition to the farm with fridges full of raw milk, butter, cheese and other lovely things to enjoy on my journey home - all completely self service too.

"We now stock Baron Bigod continuously as a favourite..."

Since my visit to Fen Farm Dairy and having heard their story, smelt the fresh air of the farm and met the cows first hand, we now stock Baron Bigod continuously as a favourite (I know I'm not supposed to have favourites, so I blame the customers).

You can get your hands on some of the good stuff at one of our many markets and events. Be quick though, it doesn't hang around!

I love to learn about the incredible people behind the scenes and talk about the many unique ideas and processes our artisan cheesemakers have for creating their own masterpieces. And it's a pleasure to be able to share some of their stories and fantastic creations with you.

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