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Ludlow Food Centre starts producing ewes milk cheese - and has already started winning awards! (12th June 2014)

Ludlow Food Centre starts producing ewes milk cheese - and has already started winning awards!

A Shropshire cheese maker has teamed up with a alternative dairy operation in the county to produce an entirely new type of cheese. The Ludlow Food Centre on the Earl of Plymouth’s Oakly Park Estate near Ludlow are working with the Pitchford Estate just outside Shrewsbury to create ewe’s milk cheese.

Dudley Martin and Paul Bedford make eight cheeses using milk from the estate’s own Friesian Holstein dairy cows and last year won Best Blue Cheese in Britain. However, this year they have turned their hands to working with ewe’s milk from the Pitchford Estate in a pioneering move to make Shropshire first sheep’s cheeses. Dudley says

‘We were approached over a year ago by a couple who said they wanted to start a flock of Zwartbles sheep. These sheep are renowned for the quality of their milk and are black and white just like Friesian cows. We took our first batch of the milk from them in April and started experimenting with different cheeses.’

Dudley and Paul have made a range of coated sheep’s milk soft cheeses using natural ash, dried chilli, cumin seeds, rosemary and mint as the coatings. In the recent British Cheese Awards Dudley’s soft sheep’s cheese picked up a silver medal, even though it was one of the first batches. James Nason, who supplies the milk from the Pitchford Estate has been overwhelmed with the early success of the relationship and says

‘We’re delighted at the Pitchford Estate to be working with the Ludlow Food Centre to provide sheep milk to their award winning dairy led by Dudley Martin. We were incredibly excited that within two months of producing sheep milk on the Estate that the Ludlow Food Centre won a Silver Medal in the new cheese category at the British Cheese Awards.’

The cheese is made using a special rennet that has been imported from Spain. The soft variety only takes four days to mature and has a fresh, natural, clean flavour. The majority of British sheep’s cheese is hard but Dudley wanted to try something new and produce a soft variety, he says,

‘Using a vegetarian rennet from the Cardoon plant we wanted to make a naturally soft and mild ewe’s milk cheese. When we separate the curds from the whey the natural characteristic of the curd is to be firm but we found that if we reduced the amount of rennet we created a natural, lactic fermentation which kept the cheese soft.’

Ewe’s milk is packed full of protein and is also suitable for people who are lactose intolerant. Dudley has therefore identified a gap in the market and plans to extend his range. In the maturing room there are three other cheeses including a semi-hard, semi-soft and a traditional hard cheese. The maturation of these cheeses ranges from 8 weeks to 8 months so that hard cheese will not be ready until Christmas. In the meantime Dudley is also working on yoghurt and ice-cream made using the milk that will be debuted shortly at Ludlow Food Centre.