A smooth, firm texture and a nutty, deliciously piquant taste - Tesco Farmhouse Cheddar ticks all the boxes that a great cheddar should. There's one simple way to guarantee that the standard remains consistently high, and that's to source it from cheese-makers who really know what they're doing. Which is why Tesco Farmhouse Cheddar is made the traditional handmade way, by just three family farms in the West Country, where Cheddar first originated.*
Our Standard Mature Farmhouse comes from Ashley Chase Farm in South West Dorset, where the Pullin and Littman families have been making Cheddar for over 25 years. Tesco Finest Farmhouse Handmade Vintage Cheddar is made on Leaze Farm, in Somerset; here, the Baker family have been making cheddar since 1966.
Mature and Extra Mature are made by Parkham Farm, on the North Devon coast, where the Willis family have 29 years of cheddar-making experience. We recently caught up with Peter Willis to find out more about his farm and passion for cheese.
'Cheese is in my blood,' Peter told us. 'I've been farming since I could walk.'
His 1500-acre Parkham Farm in North Devon has a fine heritage; a close-knit family business specialising in fine cheeses made from milk produced on the farm itself. This, says Peter, coupled with traditional creamery methods, is what gives his deliciously crumbly, open-textured cheddar the edge.
'We're different from mass produced cheeses where the milk is transported in to factories. Ours is made on a big open table, put into individual moulds and turned by hand. That's what gives it the wonderful slightly crumbly texture, plus its distinct flavour.'
Add to this the fresh sea air from the nearby coast and rich soil producing lush grass, and you can see why the Willis team is so proud of the produce. 'Because the cheese is made in situ, it absorbs the aroma of the farm and the surrounding countryside. The milk we use for our Cheddar is predominantly sourced from cows, who graze outside in a gentle climate from April – October. This helps enhance the flavour too.'
All of the cheeses in the Farmhouse Cheddar range are matured for different lengths of time (9 months for Standard, 11 -14 for Mature, 14-18 for Extra Mature and Vintage for 18-24 months) but the key thing they have in common, aside from the high quality of milk used, and the expertise behind them, is the strictly traditional process used. All of the farms stir the milk by hand in open vats to separate the curds (the solids from the milk that go on to form the cheese) from the whey, and the cheese is then pressed in moulds overnight before being allowed to mature.
And once the maturing time is up, how does a traditional cheddar maker like to enjoy the results?
Peter Willis from Parkham Farm enjoys a classic cheese board. 'You can't beat a simple cheese platter with biscuits and an apple.'
Neil Baker, from Leaze Farm, is also quick with his answer: ‘I'll have it with chutney - tomato is great - and a few slices cut from a fresh, crusty white loaf. When you're eating cheddar like that, just remember to take it out of the fridge about an hour before you use it, as the flavour's best when it's at room temperature.'
Try this delicious recipe for Ham and leek macaroni cheese
*All our Farmhouse cheddar is handmade on just 3 West Country farms. Selected UK stores. Subject to availability. Applies to Tesco brand pre-packed Farmhouse Cheddar.