The Financial Times has a great profile of William Oglethorpe of Kappacassein Dairy, one of the first true modern urban cheesemakers in London (and probably any city, for that matter). This man is my role model! :
Twice a week at 4.30am Bill Oglethorpe leaves his flat in Streatham, London and drives for 50 minutes to an organic farm outside Sevenoaks in Kent. When he arrives the cows have just finished milking. He unloads his squat 20l aluminium churns and pours a little of his fermented milk starter into the bottom of each one. The milk comes straight out of a tank in the milking parlour, through a pipe and into the churn at the temperature it leaves the cow’s body: 30C. Bill fastens on the lids, heaves the churns into the back of the van and heads off to his Kappacasein Dairy in Bermondsey. In just a few hours the milk in the churns will have been transformed into five fat wheels of cheese. Bermondsey Hard Pressed cheese goes from udder to a recognisable cheese in a little over seven hours.
Cheese makers perform a daily alchemy, turning a perishable ingredient – milk – into something durable, storable and dense with protein: cheese. But to be a cheese maker you must rise, like Bill, before dawn to fetch your milk – and not just any milk. The French cheesemonger, Pierre Androuët talks about cheese having a cru, or growth, just like wine. Instead of the quality of the grape, it is the milk that is the first (and possibly the most fundamental) thing a cheese maker must get right.
William Oglethorpe sounds like a very English name, but this cheese maker is a Frenchman raised in Tanzania and Switzerland, where he learnt his craft in the Swiss Alps. The simple way cheese was made there (by heating raw milk) appealed to him, as did the relatively small amount of equipment needed. I join him as he starts work on the first cheese of the day, similar to an Alpine Tomme de Montagne.
(Photos ©2013 Financial Times)