Last fall, in the lobby of the Cavalieri Hotel in Bra, Italy, The Lady had the delight to meet Mary Quicke, Owner and Cheese Maker at Quickes Traditional Cheese, one of our favorite cheesemakers… and bloggers… For The Lady, it was liking meeting a Rock Star… and in reality it was… a Cheese Rock Star.
We have long been avid readers of Mary’s Diary; reading about her farm, her cheesemaking and her animals and their frolicking in the pastures of her farm.
The Quicke Family has been farming near the village of Newton St. Cyres in the South West of England, for over 450 years. A quarter century ago, Sir John Quicke and his wife built the dairy and began making cheese. Today the dairy is run by Mary, the head Cheese Maker, and daughter of Sir John. Along with Mary, there are eight other cheese makers, creating truckles of award-winning cheese which they wrap in muslin (the “traditional” way) and age up to two years before sending the cheese to market.
In additional to their famous Traditional Mature Cheddar, which is aged a minimum of twelve months, Mary and her band of merry cheese makers make cheddars from mild to vintage, Red Leicester, Double Gloucester, a Hard Goat’s Cheddar and butter.
We are thrilled to share with you our conversation with Mary:
Spaulding Gray: First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. I know how busy the days are for Cheese Makers and making time for me is truly appreciated…
Your family has been in the dairy business for more than 400 years. Did you ever consider not carrying on the family tradition or has cheese always been in your blood?
Mary Quicke: I’ve got 3 brothers, so I assumed one of them would be the one carrying on the tradition – my father wanted us to make a positive choice to come back to the farm. He was quite off putting – how hard the work is, how difficult to make money. I was away from the farm for 10 years, but I missed it. My father was speaking about the grass, the cows, the cheese. I got inspired, asked him if he’d consider me coming back to the farm, & he leapt at it.
SG: What is the most obscure cheese you have ever eaten and where did you find it?
MQ: A Lebanese goat’s cheese made in a goat’s skin with the hair still on – I tasted it at Slow Cheese in Bra, Italy.
Spaulding: Have you ever eaten Velveeta? Is there a cheese made in England similar to Velveeta?
Mary: I’ve never eaten Velveeta – it’s one of those things Brits struggle with about American cheese. I get the hit – something you shouldn’t do but do anyway. The Brit equivalent would be a pork pie – comforting, yummy, and other people don’t get.
SG: If you were making a grilled cheese with Sciurus griseus as an ingredient, which of your cheeses would you use?
MQ: Squirrel – grilled – wow, that’s a great idea. I guess I’d try our smoked cheddar – we take a slightly more forward flavoured cheese, gently smoke it over oak chips for 16 hours to give a really balanced long flavour. The smoke and the slight tang of the cheese would balance the gaminess of the squirrel and dance the flavours together down the length of both Of them.
(You can read our review of Mary’s Oak-Smoked Cheddar here.)
Spaulding: Any tips for aspiring cheesemakers?
Mary: Tip for aspiring cheesemakers: work as a team, farming and cheesemaking and selling cheese are such different activities; keep learning the art and the science of cheesemaking, and have fun, this isn’t a dry run.
Spaulding: Thanks again for taking the time.
Next week, we will be posting our interview with John Fiscalini of California’s Award-Winning Fiscalini Farmstead Cheeses.