Cheesemaking classes at Applegarth Farm Cookery School
PUBLISHED: 00:00 29 April 2020
Cheese aficionado Louise Talbot shares her cheesemaking passion
Having grown up on her family’s fourth-generation farm in South Canterbury, New Zealand, Louise Talbot, founder of Cutting the Curd Cheesemaking Classes, always had a natural affinity with the land. “We lived in a beautiful old timbered homestead on a hill, looking out over the Pacific Ocean,” she says. “Some of my happiest childhood memories include seeing Japanese squid boats lit up along the coastline in the evenings; taking huge trays of delicious home-cooked teas across to the shearing shed; helping in the sheep yards; and playing in Grandad Alexander’s milking parlour – walking patiently behind the cows as they returned to their field.”
Her passion for cheese was born in her home country: “New Zealand is a very rural country and we are a nation of home cooks,” says Louise. “Not long after I married my husband, almost 36 years ago, we decided to convert the farm into a dairy unit. It was very early in the days of conversions and the beginning of the incredible dairy boom to take over New Zealand. It is now almost one big dairy farm!”
As a trained teacher and self-confessed foodie, Louise has been making cheese for more than 20 years – after her sister arranged for a visiting cheesemaker to take a class and she was hooked.
After 35 years travelling between the UK and New Zealand, Louise and her husband have been permanently set up across the border in Dorset for the past ten years. To hone her skills and learn the all-important theory, Louise signed up for a series of residential courses in commercial cheese production. Then almost eight years ago, Cutting the Curd was born – a mobile cookery school specialising in cheese making.
“I travel widely throughout the country teaching in a variety of venues. I simply can’t imagine life without cheese – I adore it!” says Louise. “I run the entire business and do find it very satisfying being my own boss. I have taught thousands of students over the years and derive so much pleasure from sharing my love of cheese and seeing their enthusiasm also. Despite being made weekly and daily only a generation or so ago, it is frightening how quickly the skill has been lost.”
In Hampshire, Louise has taught a number of cookery classes at Applegarth Farm in Grayshott and plans to return later in the year: “I generally run a Part One course, where we make halloumi, mozzarella, mascarpone and butter. Part Two is slightly more advanced with students taking home camembert and feta – there’s homework to be done, growing the furry white coat and soaking in salty brine,” says Louise. “We can also make cheddar, cream cheese, edam, cambozola, stilton, bloomy blue goats – the opportunities are endless! I’m currently working on a new programme making ‘flavoured’ cheeses…”
Louise’s courses are open to anyone over the age of 16. “During Part One I cover the main theory aspects, as it’s important students understand the process and science behind turning milk into cheese early on. Many students really have got the bug for cheesemaking, opening a whole new world to them. That I find very satisfying.
“I’ve taught hen parties, corporate groups, staff from a company manufacturing cheesemaking equipment, birthday parties, chef diploma students, family groups and WI members,” says Louise.
At home, Louise’s own fridge is maturing six cheddars – one a delicious farmhouse, flavoured with chives, she says: “I also have four camembert, a block of feta in brine and two edams in red wax. I’m a training partner for the Academy of Cheese and having taken a course last Saturday, we’re enjoying finishing off the 12 cheeses which students learn to taste profile!”
Louise is a member of the Specialist Cheese Makers Association and guest tutor at many cookery schools, including Waitrose, Leith’s School of Food and Wine, Divertimenti and WI Denman College – she is also a Cheese Awards judge.
“I love all cheese, eating and cooking with it every day, but probably my absolute favourite would be a creamy blue, but then I love comte, Red Fox red leicester, camembert, smoked, halloumi…,” says Louise.
“I am a meat eater, but if there’s a meal without meat and halloumi is there, then I’m quite satisfied! It’s become very popular and justifiably so. You can do so much with it and it’s delicious in a wide variety of salads. My favourite way to serve it though is still lightly pan-fried in butter and enjoyed with a glass of chilled kiwi Sauvignon Blanc!”
Louise has big plans: “As a family we are working on establishing a new modern beef and dairy unit. Animal welfare and sustainability are at its core and we intend to have the facility open to the public for a large part of the time. It has been several years in the designing, but we hope to get it off the ground this year – hopefully in Hampshire!”
“I must go now,” she adds. “I can smell the dauphinoise for tonight’s supper is ready to come out of the oven – oozy cream with homemade crumbled feta, topped with manchego and gruyere.”