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Ludlow Food Centre win Best Blue in Britain Award (10th September 2013)

Ludlow Food Centre win Best Blue in Britain Award

A Shropshire cheese maker has received the highest accolade at this year’s British Cheese Awards. The Ludlow Food Centre is on the Earl of Plymouth’s Oakly Park Estate in Shropshire and has been making cheese for six years.

Dudley Martin and Paul Bedford make eight cheeses using milk from estates own Friesian Holstein dairy cows.  Amongst their cheese selection is this year’s Best Blue Cheese in Britain, Remembered Hills, as voted at the British Cheese Awards.  Dudley says,

‘It is such a competitive market and there are some amazing dairies throughout Britain that produce over 700 British cheeses.  To be given an award for best blue cheese is an incredible honour’.

With over 80 cheeses, the blue category is always one of the hardest to judge and one of the most fiercely contested.  At the Food Centre, Dudley and Paul, start their day before 8am by collecting milk from the estate dairy less than two miles away.  They are only able to make four cheeses a day, each weighing around 10kgs.  Each batch starts with approximately 400 litres of milk before adding a penicillium culture to start the curds and whey process.  Every cheese is made by hand with the whole process taking three months before it is ready to eat.  Dudley explains,

‘We hadn’t made blue cheese until we joined the Food Centre.  It is a difficult cheese to perfect and we still feel like there is more we can do.  The seasonal changes in the milk make the cheese react differently throughout the year.  The winning cheese was made in early June when our cows were out in the fields.’

Remembered Hills is a Stilton style cheese that has actually beaten the original.  Three proper Stiltons were entered in this year’s awards.  Stilton has a PDO (Protected Designated Origin) but other cheese makers can make versions under other names.  Remembered Hills is Ludlow Food Centre’s take on Stilton but Dudley and Paul also make Ludlow Blue which is the only real Shropshire Blue to be made in the county of Shropshire.  Both cheeses are stored in the Food Centre maturation room on beech racking that was made from the estate’s trees.  Dudley says,
‘I was very fortunate to be involved from the very beginning at the Food Centre.  To run my own dairy has been a challenge and a big responsibility but awards like this make all the hard work worth it’.

It is going to be impossible for Dudley and Paul to keep up with demand as interest in Remembered Hills will no doubt grow after winning the award.  However, there are no plans to change from being a genuine artisan producer. For Dudley it is about quality not quantity,

‘So many people want to eat cheese that there is need for commercial dairies.  However, we want to uphold the traditional values and artisan skills that are needed to make cheeses of character and interest.  A small amount of great cheese is better than a huge block of the manufactured stuff.’