What could be more refreshing that an ice cold glass of cider on a summer’s day. Just like alcoholic ginger beer, this is Apple juice for grown ups.
It was the Romans who discovered how to ferment apple juice and fast forward to the 11th century when the Normans conquered Britain, they brought their fruit-growing and cider-making expertise with them. The fertile soil and warm climate in the West Country was ideal for apple orchards. Thus, the British cider industry was born.
In 1805, in the Somerset village of Norton Fitzwarren, a farmers’ co-operative was formed to make cider which developed with great success. In 1911, Reverend Cornish, a cider maker at Heathfield Rectory and his gardener Arthur Moore, collaborated in the business and within a year they established The Taunton Cider Company.
Following The Second Wold War, Taunton Cider supplied local and regional pubs and through the 1950s and 1960s the British brewing industry developed through takeover mergers. Taunton Cider sales increased with share holders assisting the rising scale of cider production – also launching half-pint and two-pint bottles as an alternative to the traditional draught cider.
Guinness became an investor in order to create new brands of cider, venture into the off licence trade, supermarket sales and marketing with great success. by 1992 the company grew to become the second largest cider maker in the UK, producing 30 million gallons per year employing 550 people most of whom were based in the village of Norton Fitzwarren.
After a management buyout and a public floatation, Taunton Cider was taken over by Matthew Clark in 1992. Unfortunately, production at the original Somerset Mill was closed down in 1998 with the majority of loyal workers made redundant.
Somerset in the West Country is at the heart and heritage of English cider making, best known for its strong, cloudy, scrumpy ciders, dry and medium-sweet versions, the county is known for bittersweet apples creating traditional flavours from vintage cider recipes.
The good news is that The Taunton Cider Company was re-registered in 2015 by a group of cider enthusiasts setting up premises at Cutliffe Farm, Sherfor to produce a range of traditional ciders, crafted from 100% heritage apple varieties from local orchards.
“Working with the best apple growers, we harvest, press, ferment and make premium ciders with no additional concentrates. .. it’s a really natural product blended by our master cider maker. We are building our brand whilst being respectful of the history, heritage and importance of Taunton Cider in Somerset.” Jonathan Dunne, founder and owner.
Taunton Cider has partnered with Stewley Orchard which is committed to the responsibility of its conservation and the care of twenty varieties of heritage apple trees. The ecology of this Orchard is vitally important, with birds and honeybees, Roe deer and rabbits, all benefiting from the fallen fruits, wild flowers, grasses and ponds.
Cider is akin to Champagne
It’s fascinating to know that the British invented the ‘Champagne method’ for cider production well before Dom Perignon began making his superior sparkling wine in northern France!
The ‘Cider is Wine’ group is keen that British Heritage Alcoholic Drinks are given the same financial and business benefits as other drinks industries. Cider and Perry made from 100% juice (grape, apple, pear, or other fruits) should be treated like wine due to the similarities in production. The soil on which the apples are grown influence the taste – just like wine with its regional terroir.
The Taunton Cider Taste Test:
Having not sipped a Cider for many years, I recently opened a bottle of Taunton Dry cider while watching the women singles final at the Australian Tennis Open – on TV, not in Melbourne. As it’s summer there, a refreshing ice-cold cider was just the perfect tipple due to the fact that light, sparkling Cider is produced with a similar method to Champagne!
The various styles and strengths of Taunton ciders are so fresh tasting, not overly sweet but with the crisp, tart flavour of biting into a juicy apple.
Taunton Dry Original Cider, 4% ABV
Dabinett, Harry Masters Jersey and Yarlington Mill apples.
Soft sunshine gold in colour with an aroma of aged oak. Slightly dry on the tongue, smooth with a crisp, tangy apple taste. Served ice cold, this is deliciously refreshing.
Taunton Medium Cider, 4% ABV
Dabinett, Harry Masters Jersey and Yarlington Mill apples.
Warm amber shade with lightly sparkling effervescence. A well balanced blend of floral and bittersweet apple flavours then a lingering taste of smoky earthiness.
Taunton Proper Natch Cider, 5.5% ABV
“A sharp, dry traditional cider, proper Natch is made with the finest Somerset apples. A proper thirst quenching cider. “
Light amber in colour, smooth, silky texture and natural, juicy fruity taste. Ideal with food as an alternative to an IPA: think Pub grub, Sausage and mash, Veggie Burger, Fish & chips.
Taunton Longaller Mill Cider, 5% ABV
A blend of classic apple varieties, Yarlington Mill, Sweet Coppin, Improved Lambert Pippin and Tom Putt from a single orchard at Longaller Mill in Somerset, which has produced apples to make cider since the early 1900s.
A golden hued, premium, semi-dry cider with a light sparkling carbonation, smooth tasting, with a long lasting, classic apple cake flavour.
While cool, crisp and refreshing drinks sipped on their own, Taunton ciders can accompany lunch or supper, too and also use as an ingredient, in pies, cakes and add to sauces – apple is traditional with pork – and ideal with seafood.
Baked Scallop in the shell, buttered leeks, Taunton cider and Apple
Check out the recipe here. https://www.tauntoncider.co.uk/blogs/news/baked-scallop-in-the-shell-buttered-leeks-taunton-cider-and-apple
Taunton Cider Company combines traditional methods with contemporary skills for small batch, premium quality and such a pure, natural taste. This is authentic, Artisan, craft cider at its best.
“Proper Cider from Somerset”
What drinkers are saying:
“Proper apples are used and you can tell straight away. Dry crisp taste, just worried that it’s a bit moreish as only 12 in a case.!”
“Fanstastic tasting local cider from a great company. The Vintage cider is really good, 10/10.”
“It’s not easy to stop at one. This cider has become by far my favourite.”
Since their first cider was bottled in 2016, the “new” Taunton Cider Company has been presented with no less than thirty awards in the first four years of production. At the annual International Cider Challenge Trophy. the Medium received the highest accolade, the Trophy, and the Dry, Medium and Vintage varieties have also won bronze, silver and gold awards.
Taunton Cider is served at a selection of leading hospitality and leisure venues, such as Soho House and the National Trust.
Read more about the company, the range of ciders and purchase online at www.tauntoncider.co.uk
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company – the only Cheddar made in Cheddar – preserves a thick, tasty slice of English Heritage.
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, the only dairy in the village of Cheddar, Somerset, produces authentic cheese, recreating the ancient 12th century craft and tradition.
Although versions of cheddar are made today around the world, the original cheese was produced in Cheddar dating back to 1170. With the absence of refrigeration the problem of how to store surplus milk was solved by turning it into cheese. Cheesemakers discovered that if you pressed the fresh curd to squeeze out the moisture, the cheese lasted much longer, transforming milk to ensure ‘the perfect food’ was available all year round.
The Cheddar Gorge features a series of caves which provided the ideal chilled environment for maturing the cheese.
This fine cheese became popular with the aristocracy and received Royal patronage. The Great Roll of the Exchequer records that in 1170 King Henry II purchased 10,240 lb (4.6 tons) of Cheddar Cheese at a farthing per pound totalling £10.13s 4d. He declared it to be the best in Britain and his son, Prince John, continued to serve Somerset cheddar cheese at banquets.
In the 19th century, Joseph Harding, a Somerset dairyman was known as “the father of Cheddar cheese” for inventing the revolving breaker for curd cutting, saving hard manual labour.
Harding believed that Cheddar cheese is “not made in the field, nor in the byre, nor even in the cow, it is made in the dairy.” Joseph Harding and his wife were key pioneers in the introduction of the cheese into Scotland and North America.
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, formerly a tourist shop selling fudge, sweets, cards and making “a bit of cheddar in the back room,” was taken over in 2003 by John and Katherine Spencer with entrepreneurial vision. With previous long experience in the dairy industry, they have developed their successful, independent, Artisan business through extensive research, experimentation and plenty of passion.
The cheese is hand made in the traditional way from unpasteurised raw milk delivered to the dairy each morning from one local farm, and the truckles are slowly matured, wrapped in muslin cloths.
“Using only fresh, local, unpasteurised milk, we preserve the original character of our namesake. This, we believe, is our responsibility and privilege.” John and Katherine Spencer
In 2006, the Spencers had the innovative idea to reintroduce the unique, traditional method of storing cheese in the Cheddar Gorge Caves, which has significant influence on flavour and texture – Gough’s Cave is the original, historical Cheddar Cheese larder.
The Company produces 60 tons of cheese each year. It takes about 10 litres of milk to make 1 kilogram of cheddar. In total about 333,000 tons of cheddar are produced in the UK per year.
So, now the important question, how is their authentic Cheddar Cheese made?
“All cheese is made in a similar way. It’s a process that transforms milk into curds and whey. The whey is drained and the curd remains; this curd is already ‘fresh’ cheese.
Cheddaring involves cutting, turning and stacking blocks of curd, allowing it to cool, drain further and ‘knit’ together again over a period of time.
After pressing in moulds, the whole cheeses are dressed in traditional cotton/muslin cloth before being transferred to the maturing stores. The use of cheesecloth is a vital and historical way of allowing the cheese to gradually dry and develop a rind.
Whole cheeses weigh around 26Kg and are matured slowly. Generally, the older the cheese, the stronger the flavour. Our youngest mellow cheddars are around six months old and the oldest cheddar is usually around two years old.
Now – time to sample a selection of three cheeses from the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company.
Vintage Cheddar (aged for 20 – 26 months)
“ A robust mighty strong cheese – extended maturing time resulting in a more vibrant, nutty cheddar with drier harder body” Best Cheddar at both the World and British Cheese Awards
The taste test: The slow, slow production over two years is like the finely crafted creation of a fine vintage wine. With its thin grey rind, it is certainly very hard, similar in texture to Parmesan, with a pungent, punchy strong flavour. You only need a thin slice – (so economical!) – to experience the extraordinary rich creamy taste. Marvellously, majestically mature. King Henry 11 would approve.
It’s a hearty cheese ideal for Toasted Cheese or even better, Welsh Rarebit; as they say, when the leaves fall in Autumn and Winter, the cheese melts.
Welsh Rarebit – ‘caws pobi’, which is Welsh for toasted cheese. This simple, homely dish of toasted bread covered in melted cheese and topped with mustard and spices has been popular since the 1500s – the first recorded reference was Welsh Rabbit, although it never had rabbit in it.!
A 16th-century tale tells how God asked Saint Peter to get rid of the Welsh from heaven, as they kept causing a ruckus. Saint Peter stomped outside the Pearly Gates and shouted ‘caws pobi!’, to which all the Welshmen duly tumbled out excitedly, allowing the gates to be slammed shut behind them.
As a traditional dish it has its own national day – September 3rd is Welsh Rarebit Day.
There are various recipes but this is rather tasty. “When you’re cold, tired and hungry, nothing beats this posh cheese on toast,” say the Hairy bikers.
Welsh Rarebit – serves 4.
25g butter 25g plain flour, 110 ml strong dark beer, 150 g mature Cheddar, grated, 1 free range egg yolk, 1 tsp English mustard, pinch of Cayenne pepper, 4sp Worcester sauce, 4 thick slices granary or wholemeal bread, freshly ground pepper.
Preheat the grill to high. Melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook over a low heat for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Slowly add the beer. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until the sauce is thick and smooth.
Add the cheese, egg yolk, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper, Stir constantly, until the cheese melts. Season with freshly ground black pepper and set aside. Place the bread on a baking tray lined with aluminium foil and toast on each side until golden-brown. Spread the cheese sauce thickly over the bread, making sure the slices are completely covered so the edges don’t burn. Return to the grill for 20-30 seconds longer until lightly browned and bubbling.
Add a fried egg for a nourishing, Cheesey feast, a Buck Rarebit.
Cave matured (aged for 12 months)
“Matured in the natural Cheddar Gorge cave, the natural environment with constant temperature and humidity provide perfect conditions. A unique, complex cheddar flavour.”
Silver Medal, British Cheese Awards, Bronze Medal, World Cheese Awards.
The taste test: Lighter in texture than the Vintage with a distinctive, slightly smoked flavour – almost crumbly like a Cheshire, but a seriously fine mature cheddar.
Serve with a selection of crisp crackers and water biscuits, slices of British apple – perhaps Cox Orange Pippen or Russet – and sweet, fruity Quince jelly. Alternatively, the classic accompaniment of chutney or pickle.
Oak Smoked Cheese (aged for 6 months)
“When we say smoking, we mean smoking! Cold smoked over smouldering oak chippings from old whisky barrels. Think bonfire night or wood burning stoves.”
Champion cheese, Devon County show, (the first time a smoked cheddar won the category). Gold, 2018 and 2019.
The taste test. Wow! is the word, this is so distinctively unique. Earthy with a hint of truffle, this is intensely smoky, like a sipping a dram of Laphroaig or Bowmore single malt from Islay, with a subtle seaweed saltiness. The oak chippings from the whisky barrels have done their work brilliantly.
To some astute or sensitive palates, the strength of smokiness is also reminiscent of smoked fish such as salmon or kippers.
Enjoy a slither or two with chunky bread or crackers; With the complex layer of flavours, this would also jazz up a Wild Mushroom or Butternut Squash Risotto which often have the addition, respectively, of Parmesan and Gorgonzola. Just sprinkle this delectable cheese on top of these dishes would add the perfect, rich, smoky creaminess.
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is also renowned for their Cheese Straws. These are handmade with puff pastry and mature cheddar.
Best to warm in the oven for a few minutes although they can be nibbled cold. Stuffed with 37% of cheddar in each straw, these are seriously cheesy and crispy. Like a Ploughman’s Lunch baked as a thick, flaky biscuit. The rich buttery texture is amazing.
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co. certainly do preserve a thick, tasty slice and slab of English Heritage with their high quality, traditional Cheddar Cheese.
Visit the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co. Shop in Cheddar, Somerset where you can taste samples of the complete range including Mellow, Extra Mature, Vintage, Cave Matured, Oak Smoked and Herb, Cider and Port flavours
Purchase cheese, pickles and preserves, cheese straws, savoury biscuits and crackers as well as pottery, cheeseboards and cheese knives.
“Cheese your Bundle” – choose your choice of three or six portions of Cheddar from the wide range. Christmas and corporate gifts, hampers and selection packs of cheese and accompaniments.
The Visitor Centre – Small groups are welcome by appointment to watch the cheesemakers at work on a 30 minute tour which also features a film showing the complete process.
Browse the website for all information on produce, visiting the shop and on line purchase.
Online mail order: efficient, eco-friendly next day delivery.
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co.
The Cliffs, Cheddar, Somerset, BS27 3QA
Tel. 01934 742810
Cheddar Gorge Cheese is also available at a wide selection of Farm shops and Delis around the country, including:
Riches Cider – Highbridge, Somerset, Whiterow Farm Shop – Frome, Wiltshire, Owtons At Country Market – near Haslemere in Hampshire, Village Larder – Washington, West Sussex, Allington Farm Shop – Chippenham, Wiltshire, Royal Windsor Farm Shop – Windsor, A F Blakemore & Sons – Darlaston (Nr Wolverhampton), Cobbs of Engleford – Theale, Reading, Berkshire, Brace of Butchers – Dorchester, Darts Farm Shop – Topsham, Exeter, Devon