Thursday 19 July 2012

Of mice and cheese and rainy days...

While Tuesday of this week was awful, (see previous blog post,) Monday had been wonderful.

I opened the curtains first thing to a dreary, rain flooded sky and wondered what I was going to do with the sproglets who were beginning their second week of the school holidays. Usually we would have been off on a camping trip by now; tent loaded in the car, marshmallows close at hand, but this year is just too darn wet. Towards the end of this week I have plans for sproglet entertainment that stretches into August, but this Monday had me flummoxed.

I keep meaning to scribe a blog page with a list of things to do with sproglets on a rainy day... maybe I'll do that later this week, in the meantime we've hosted various playdates and the 9yo has taken to painting watercolours and other crafty activity while the 7yo is excellent at Lego creation and at bombing through the levels of a Wii game, selling it on eBay, buying another and so on....

While making breakfast I had a Eureka! moment. How about a cheap and cheerful outing with educational and gastronomic overtones? Clearly it was time for a visit to Mousetrap Cheese's Monkland Cheese Dairy at Pleck Farm, a few miles to the west of Leominster in Hereford. At an entrance fee of  £3 for adults and £1.75 per child, this cottage industry takes you into the heart of cheese making, up close and personal, (blue cheese smells and all.) Mousetrap Cheese are the producers of the Little Hereford and Monkland Cheese and they also own shops in Leominster, Ludlow and Hereford where they specialise in a range of British farmhouse and continental cheeses mostly made from unpasteurised milk.

By 10:30am we were running from the car to the little coffee and cheese shop, the persistent wet stuff just wouldn't let up! Inside the dairy was all toasty warm with coffee and cheese perfuming the air. We nibbled at taster sized pieces of cheese, loving all of the flavours especially the Little Hereford flavoured with sage.

Our guide and chief cheese maker soon came to collect us. She wore a fetching outfit of white boots, apron, shorts and a T-shirt, along with a retro looking 1970's hat, (probably a heath and safety requirement rather than a nod to The Liver Birds.) We're it not for the text on the back of her t-shirt that read; 'Blessed be the cheese makers,' she could have auditioned for a number of Abba copycat bands.

Our guide was so wonderfully personable that our tour comprising three adults and five children (aged from 7-14)  were soon happy to ask questions and squeal in horror at the origin of French rennet, a bi-product of the French veal industry. Who'd have though cheese making could be so gory - the kids loved it.

We were shown how the cheese was made, stage by stage and stood just a few feet from huge vats of warm, rennet infused milk, gawping at the fact that with 1000 litres of milk, only 100 litres of cheese would be created. This leaves 90% of soluble protein or whey as waste and this needs to be disposed of. This waste is ideally suited to feed pigs, so get in touch with them if you'd like some for your animals.

We were taken into the storage rooms where mold (the good type) encrusted rounds of cheese were sat on shelves maturing. The 7yo was salivating by now and I was surprised to note that he wasn't bothered by the aroma, he was genuinely interested in the process, as was the 9yo.

All in all it was a great adventure and by the time we left, the rain had stopped and the sun was belting hot........ OK, I've gone waaaay too far now... it was still pee-ing down!

For cheese and tasty tours (and to avoid the rain) contact:

Mousetrap Cheese, The Pleck, Monkland, Hereford. HR6 9DB Tel. 01568 720 307

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