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Make St Jude cheese from Bungay cream of crop by voting in Great British Cheese Awards

PUBLISHED: 09:05 03 August 2017 | UPDATED: 09:05 03 August 2017

Julie Cheyney who makes 'St Jude' Cheese on Fen farm, Bungay.
Picture: Nick Butcher

Julie Cheyney who makes 'St Jude' Cheese on Fen farm, Bungay. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

Time is running out to vote for East Anglian cheese St Jude in national awards.

Cheese making isn’t just a job for Julie Cheyney, it’s a way of life. One of her favourite parts of the day is watching the Montbeliarde cows that provide her with milk from the window of the cheese room. How about that for a low carbon footprint?

Within 30 minutes of being produced, the creamy, raw milk finds its way over to the artisan, who then begins the process of making the creamy, bloomy little St Jude, which has been shortlisted in the Great British Cheese Awards.

This isn’t Julie’s first foray into fromage. The alchemy of milk became part of her life back in 2005 when she was looking for ways to diversify the family farm in Hampshire. Alongside a business partner, Julie was responsible for creating the now famed Tunworth (although she says it’s now made with pasteurised milk – one of the reasons she stepped away from the business).

“I’ve always been in agriculture and worked in agriculture and milked cows,” reveals Julie, talking about how the industry is so ingrained in her now milk practically runs through her veins. “I know how a farm should be run, how cows should be cared for and I take a lot of interest in that initial stage. I can’t be a cheese maker that buys in milk and makes cheese. I want the whole story. I want the cows to be looked after, the soil looked after, and the farmer to be on the same page as me. It’s more than just a business, it’s rather a passion.”

During a hiatus from cheese making, Julie worked for world famous Neal’s Yard Dairy, travelling the country, meeting other producers while she found the right place to settle herself for her next venture. And it was a popular radio show that was to seal her fate.

“I started making St Jude’s in 2012 in Hampshire. I always listen to the BBC farming programme and I heard Johnny Crickmore talking about how he’s a farmer and he’s going to make cheese. He’d gone out and invested in a certain type of cow and sounded determined. I got in touch and we knew each other for a year before I moved here in 2014.”

And so Julie found herself at Fen Farm Dairy in Bungay (known now in its own right for Baron Bigod).

A herd of 80 Montbeliarde cows produce the raw ingredient for both cheeses, with Julie saying the Alpine breed’s milk has idyllic higher levels of protein.

As well as creating fantastic-tasting raw cheese, what mattered most to Julie was the ethics of the farm, where the cows go out to graze on the fields of the Waveney Valley twice a day, sleeping in clean straw beds that are completely cleaned out every time they go wandering.

“You’ve got to be sensible and do things in the right way. That’s what’s in my heart. I know I’ve got good quality milk and the animals are cared for. It’s up to me to do the rest.”

There is, says Julie, a slight change in flavour and texture between cheeses made from summer and winter milk. And that’s what should be celebrated about British farmhouse cheeses. “It’s changing now because the grass isn’t that lush spring grass anymore and the yield is dropping so I don’t get so much cheese per litre of milk. Every day each batch is different which is exciting for me.

“St Jude is a little soft cheese that ripens quite quickly and has a small window to sell it in. It’s ready after 10 days when it’s soft and lemony, and as it ages it has more complexity. It will speak of the season when it was made and it has a bit more of a concentrated flavour at the moment.

“There’s always a hint of buttery flavour going right through. And the texture is a paste. We call it a lactic style cheese, meaning it’s dependent on the acidity in the method of making to expel the whey. With this method my making will take about 12 hours from the moment I add cultures to the moment I ladle the curd. The paste won’t break down like a camembert but it will go quite moussy sometimes. If it’s drier sometimes people mistake it for goats’ cheese when I break it in half!”

Did you know?

1.St Jude is based on a French St Marcellin cheese, usually made with goats’ milk.

2. Julie says the cheese is fantastic with berries – apparently Pea Porridge in Bury St Edmunds have been serving it with sour cherries as a pudding. “And at a South African restaurant in London they paired the cheese with chenin blanc. It was really really good.”

3. Julie’s favourite cheese is Comte, an AOC variety also made with milk from the Montbeliarde cow. “I could eat my weight in Comte.”

4. You can buy the cheese ay Baileys deli in Beccles, Earsham Street Deli, and from a special vendigng machine, operating at the farm gate in Bungay 24 hours a day.

5. Vote for St Jude here

Keep up with the latest food and drink news, reviews and recipes at Eat Suffolk and Eat Norfolk, our dedicated foodie Facebook pages.

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