The river Blackwater rises on some of the high ground of the forest and as the heather and gorse gives way, to the old ancient oak forest, home of the fallow deer, the countryside falls away sharply towards the north. In the bottom of the valley you will find the Hamptworth estate, of which Lyburn farm is part.
Our cows are all pedigree, that means that we breed from them, keep the best and record their births and their family lines can be traced back probably in some cases 60 years. They all have 2 ear tags, and relates their passport number, and it is a number they keep for life. We breed our own heifers, or replacements as we call them, as it then reduces the risk of having to buy in cattle that might have health problems, such as TB and BVD. We try to get the cows to calve once a year, they will then milk for 10 months and have a 2 month rest.
Forming the Cheese
The following morning the cheese is then knocked out of its base, and the perfectly formed cheeses, normally 54, are taken next door to the brine tank. If we were making a cheddar, all the whey would have been drained away and the cheese would be dry salted, but this is not the case here. The cheese will sit in the the brine tank for about 24 hours and will generally absorb, of its own accord, about 1.5% salt, so it is self regulatory. Even if you left the cheese in the tank for another 24 hours, the amount of extra salt absorbed will not be a greatly different. The following day the cheese is taken to the drying room on trolleys and allowed to dry, and given a batch number, that will allow us to identify each cheese until it is finally sold.
Ripening the Cheese
To get the cheeses to ripen, they are stacked on shelves or racks, with plenty of air flow around them. They are then turned on a regular basis, to ensure even ripening, and that they do not dry out at the top. The ripening rooms, ( we are a bit short on caves in the New Forest) have to be kept at a certain temperature and a constant humidity, so that the cheeses ripen at the correct speed for the ensuing period. Here you see a selection of cheeses in the ripening room. These have been here for some 7 months as they are being ripened on for Winchester’s. At any one time we will have about 10,000 cheeses maturing. This does represent a huge investment in time and money, however as an artisan producer it is the only way to compete with the big players, making something special, is what we do.