National Butchers’ Week

Today is the start of National Butchers’ Week, a celebration of the skills and services of independent butchers throughout the country.
Butchers have traditionally been a town staple along with greengrocers, bakeries and post offices. Today these have mostly been compiled into supermarkets and many towns no longer benefit from the one-to-one interaction with their butcher. In the 1990’s the Meat Trades Journal reported that there were 22,000 butchers in the UK, by 2010 this had dropped to 7,100.
However recent food trends including increased concern over trace-ability and, amid growing climate concerns, the need for quality over quantity in our meat, have resulted in a resurgence in traditional butchers. Below we look at three local butchers and their products.
Established in March 1996 Tim Potter Family Butchers began with just 3 members of staff, today there are 9 including son Christopher and daughter Katie who now runs the Katie’s Pantry part of the business.
Committed to supplying the best quality meats to their customers Tim Potter provide a range of products including traditional beef, lamb and pork joints as well as award-winning sausages and their own seasoned kebabs and BBQ range. They also stock a range of locally sourced cheeses, butters and deli products. The business credits its success on its focus on local produce, fantastic customer service and selling quality meat at realistic prices.

clive downsClive Downs Butchers
Situated in Porlock in Somerset Clive Downs Butchers was established over 20 years ago and has been managed by Derek Weeks, an experienced butcher who has worked in the trade for 40 years, since 2017. Their products include locally sourced lamb, beef and various game as well as handmade sausages including venison with redcurrant and pork with tomato and basil. Clive Downs also supply a number of Chunk of Devon pies such as the Chicken & Bacon and the Steak & Ale.

lloyd maunder exmouth (2)Lloyd Maunder – West Country Family Butchers
The eponymous Lloyd Maunder took over his father’s butchers shop in Witheridge in 1898. He then proceeded to expand the business by selling meat and dairy products to customers in London and became one of the first major suppliers to Sainsbury’s. The first Lloyd Maunder shop opened in 1913 in Tiverton and today there are 14 branded shops throughout the South West. Their product range includes traditional lamb, beef and pork as well as their popular ‘meat for a week’ deals and dinner party selections. Many of the shops now have deli counters serving local artisan cheeses, salads, pies and marinated meats which are proving popular with their customers.

There are many other fantastic family owned butchers that we could have mentioned here and this can only be a sign of the continued success of the traditional butcher. Happy National Butchers’ Week!

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The Great West Country Dairy

Cheese has been made in Britain for thousands of years; our moderate climate, year round rain and lush rolling landscape make the country – and more importantly for us the West Country – ideal for dairy farming. As wine is renowned for its ‘terroir’ so cheese develops flavours unique to the grass, soil and climate in/on which the animals graze. In small scale dairies this results in cheeses with different depths of flavour dependent upon these factors which sets them apart from manufactured cheese and production line dairies. In the following blog we explore three West Country dairies and the delicious cheeses that they produce.

The Barber family have been producing their traditional farmhouse cheddar since 1833, making them the world’s oldest surviving cheddar-makers. Daniel Barber began making cheese on Maryland Farm in rural Somerset mainly for his family and farm workers using milk from his own herd of cows. However as demand for the cheese grew more milk was needed and by the 1950’s the family were working with surrounding farms to barbers maturekeep up production.
Today the farm is still very much a family business who have not lost their passion for cheese-making. Time honoured techniques and recipes passed down through the generations combined with modern technology have ensured the longevity of this traditional cheddar. We stock a wide range of Barber’s cheeses including the Vintage Reserve 1833, the Mellow cheddar and the Haystack Tasty as well as their Red Leicester and Double Gloucester cheeses. Click here to view the whole Barber’s lynher dairiesrange.

Lynher Dairies are producers of the award-winning Cornish Yarg cheese. First made in the 1980s on Bodmin Moor by Alan Grey, who found the 17th century recipe for nettle-wrapped cheese in his attic, Yarg is now made by Catherine Mead at their custom built dairy near Truro. Other cheeses include a Garlic Yarg, Stithians cheese and the Cornish Kern which won Supreme Champion at the World Cheese Awards in 2017. The yargrich Cornish milk used in the cheese-making process comes from their own herd of Aryshire cows and is also sourced from nearby farms. This coupled with the cheese-makers’ experience and expertise results in some truly delicious cheeses. We currently stock the classic Yarg and the Garlic version.

Robin Congdon was the original pioneer behind ticklemore cheeseTicklemore Cheese Dairy. In the 1970’s he began reviving the tradition of sheep milking in the UK and, with thirty sheep on a smallholding near Exeter, began producing yogurt and soft cheeses. Soon he and his partner Maurice Ash expanded the business to a larger farm on the banks of the River Dart where the Beenleigh Blue and later Harbourne Blue and Devon Beenleigh3Blue cheeses were developed. The 1980’s were an exciting time for producing speciality cheeses and a larger dairy was built to accommodate new varieties including Ticklemore Goat and Devon Rustic – both of which were given to Sharpham Creamery once production needed to be simplified. We stock their Devon Blue and Beenleigh Blue cheeses.

There are many more dairies and cheeses that we could have mentioned here which proves just how lucky we are to live and work in this beautiful county. The hard work of dairy owners and the expertise of its cheese-makers ensures that the West Country cheese remains a renowned speciality.

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Extended Delivery Routes!

This year we are all about extensions; following recent building work we have been able to extend our fridge space meaning that we can stock more products and supply to more customers. Our office space is also currently undergoing work which will improve the day to day running of the business.

The result of all this work is that we are now excited to be able to extend our delivery routes to include more areas and ultimately supply to more customers; from small village stores and community shops to cafes, farm shops and delis.

Currently the extended routes are in Somerset, Cornwall and Mid Devon but we hope to be able to extend all routes in the coming months. Click here to see when we are able to deliver in your area or give us a call on 01392 661001.

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Local Producers – Barbers Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Here in Devon we are extremely lucky to have so many fantastic local producers on our doorstep – from artisan cheeses and bespoke blended teas to quality sausages and handmade puddings. In a time when consumers are increasingly concerned with low food miles and the provenance of their food, locality and the ‘shop local’ campaign have never been more apt. With this in mind we are producing a blog series on our local producers and their delicious products, this week focusing on Barbers Farmhouse Cheesemakers.barbers

The Barber family began making their cheeses on Maryland Farm in Somerset in 1833 and today produce their award-winning Cheddar on a much bigger scale whilst retaining their original values and techniques. The Barber’s cheeses are madebarbers mature using milk from their own herd of cows as well as extra milk sourced from surrounding farms. Their expert cheesemakers combine traditional techniques with modern innovations to produce their excellent cheeses from the ‘cheddaring’ process (the curds form slabs which are then stacked by hand) to the use of technology to increase production and maintain consistent quality.
Barber’s cheese is also one of only a handful in the South West to have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, awarded to selected foods which are made in a certain way or in a particular area. In this instance for Cheddar to be called Westcountry Farmhouse it must be made using milk from Somerset, Devon or Dorset, using traditional techniques such as ‘cheddaring’ and matured for at least nine months. The achievement of PDO status marks a high quality product.

We currently stock a number of Barber’s cheeses including the Farmhouse Mature Cheddar, typically matured for up to 12 months it is full of flavour with a mellow richness, and the Farmhouse Red Leicester which is made with barbers (2)traditional starter cultures, West Country milk and a small amount of annatto plant dye which results in its distinctive red/orange colouring. This is a smooth, buttery cheese with a firm texture and subtle, mellow sweetness. We also stock the flagship 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar which is matured for at least 24 months during which time the cheese develops an unrivaled complexity and depth of flavour with a creamy texture and naturally occurring salt crystals to give it a distinctive crunch.

All of the Barber’s cheeses are available in both retail packs of 200-320g and catering sizes from 1kg-5kg and the full range is available to view here.

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Smoking for Foodies

We have been smoking food for generations; using it to preserve food for long periods of time and for its tenderising and flavour carrying properties. It has been suggested that the recent resurgence of smoking food comes from a primeval attraction to fire and the memories it evokes, the smell of meat roasting on a BBQ is probably the modern equivalent of this as we imagine the delicious, tender meat we are about to eat. Cold smoking is generally used to smoke cured meats and fish as the temperature is usually kept between 20-30 degrees, meaning that the food being smoked is not cooked but merely infused with the smoky flavours. Hot smoking exposes the food to both heat and smoke and this is used to fully cook foods, creating moist meat and full, smoky flavours.
We stock a variety of smoked foods including the traditional cheese, fish, bacon and meats and we’ve listed some of our favourites below.

smoked_salmonSmoked Fish
Our John Ross smoked salmon is cold smoked over oak chips in the same red brick kilns used in the 19th century. The smoking process produces succulent flavours and a tender texture in the salmon which is sustainably farmed in the pure, clear waters of Scotland. This is available in 100g packs ideal for 1-2 people. We source the rest of our smoked fish range from Jacksons Fishmongers of Newton Abbot who prepare and smoke the fish sourced from Brixham fish market in their own kiln. We currently stock their rich and meaty smoked mackerel, smoked mackerel with crushed black peppercorns, lightly smoked trout and the classic Victorian breakfast dish, butterflied smoked kippers.

Smoked Cheese
We currently stock a variety of smoked cheeses all with varying degrees ofsmoked smokiness and flavour. Based in the lush valley of Newton St Cyres near Exeter the Quicke’s Oak Smoked cloth-bound cheddar is one of our favourites. It is naturally cold smoked over oak chips from their own trees for up to four hours, creating a subtle smokiness that compliments the cheeses’ buttery flavours.  Windyridge Cheese are artisan cheese makers based in Wincanton, Somerset. Their Bonfire Smoked cheese is made with smooth, creamy mature cheddar which is infused with rich, smoky flavours and dusted with paprika. The Dorset Red is made by Ford Farm Cheesemakers in Dorset. Their traditional mature cheddar is cold smoked over oak chips overnight which results in its distinctive smoky flavour and rich amber colour.

englishcuresmokedbackSmoked Meats
Our English cured smoked bacon is sourced from Devon Choice of Teignmouth, their bacon is full and rich in strong, smoky flavours which are great in pies, bacon sandwiches or a quiche Lorraine. The majority of our cured salamis are also lightly smoked including Danish, peppered and chorizo – our chorizo is also coated in smoked paprika for extra flavour.

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All About Brie

somerset brie-228x228A soft cheese named after the French region from which it originated, Brie is a much loved classic, the most famous being Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun which both have protected designation of origin status however unlike its English contemporaries such as Farmhouse Cheddar and Stilton, the generic name Brie was not protected and is now used to describe any soft, bloomy rinded cheese. There are now many varieties available all over the world, a few are also made here in the South West and we’ve listed some of our favourites below.

Somerset Brie
Made by Lubborn Creamery in the lush valley of Cricket St Thomas, this brie is made to traditional methods, allowing it to soften and ripen from the outside in and develop its fresh creamy flavours and soft, edible white rind. Pasteurised and suitable for vegetarians this is one of our best selling Bries.

Sharpham2465
Hand made using unpasteurised Jersey cows milk on Sharpham Dairy in Totnes, South Devon this mould-ripened Coulommiers style cheese has unique rich, buttery flavours and a soft, creamy texture. It is matured for four weeks during which time it grows its edible bloomy rind and gradually ripens from chalky to soft and gooey.

Tim_Schofield_Photo_150520-83 (1)St Endellion
A decadent version of classic Cornish Brie the St Endellion is enriched with locally made double cream for a rich, full bodied flavour. Made by the team at Trevarrian Creamy near Newquay the texture softens as it ripens and the cheese develops its characteristic golden colour, soft pale rind and deliciously creamy interior.

Any of these Bries are a perfect addition to cheeseboards, their soft, creamy texture makes an interesting contrast to the hard cheese options. Sharpham in particular is great melted on roasted vegetables and the St Endellion makes a fantastic dessert cheese while the Somerset Brie is delicious baked in the oven with some rosemary. However you like your Brie try one of these and we promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Cheese Showcase: Barber’s Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Established in 1833 Barber’s is one of the oldest surviving cheddar makers in the world. Based on the same Maryland Farm for the last two centuries, they are proud to keep traditional cheesemaking practices alive using the finest Somerset milk from their own herd of 2500 cows. They are one of a handful of farms awarded Protection Designation of Origin status which certifies that the cheese they make is produced using locally sourced milk, traditional cheesemaking techniques and matured for at least nine months.

1833 Vintage Reserve
Named for the year in which Barbers Cheesemakers was established this cheddar has a powerful, complex flavour and a smooth, creamy texture with occasional crunch due to the formation of natural calcium lactate crystals. Only the best cheeses are graded highly enough to be matured for the full 24 months and emerge as this vintage 1833.

Red LeicesterARB_WEB_700x700px_RedLeicester_AW_grande
Milk quotas from the 1950’s to 1990’s meant that dairy farmers no longer needed to produce cheese to make ends meet and this resulted in the mass closure of small farmhouse dairies. Barbers were able to survive by shifting from cheddar to Caerphilly production and later on to double Gloucester and this red Leicester. A slightly sweet, mellow cheese this is matured for around four months with the addition of annatto which provides its distinct red colour.

Haystack Tasty
Developed using a new starter culture used to control the cheese ripening process, this cheese is strong and well rounded in flavour with a slightly crumbly texture. It is matured for up to 12 months to fully develop its distinct, rich flavours and is a firm favourite with us!

Barbers also produce the traditional mellow, mature and vintage cheddars as well as double Gloucester, Caerphilly and Cheshire cheeses. All are available in both bulk catering blocks and pre-packed sizes to suit your requirements. Call to order yours today!

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New Branded Pre-Packs!

Barber's Group ShotWe are delighted to announce that we are introducing a new range of branded pre-packs from Barber’s Cheese (Maryland) and Quicke’s of Devon from mid July. While we already stock both of these producers as both bulk and pre-packs we feel that the new branded packs will really stand out on your shelves and increase sales. These packs will be fixed weight and priced per block with branded labels, they will also not be price marked which will allow you to set your own prices.

Barber’s have been producing their award winning cheeses on Maryland Farm since 1833. Using traditional techniques and the finest West Country milk their skilled cheesemakers produce delicious farmhouse cheeses which are full of flavour and texture. Cheeses range from their Vintage Reserve, matured for 24 months with rich, complex flavours to Mellow, a creamy, smooth and buttery cheese and everything in between.

The Quicke’s have also been producing traditional Cheddars for over 500 years, QuickesGroupcombining the best West Country produce with time honoured techniques and the knowledge of their expert cheesemakers. Their cheeses are traditionally cloth bound and given varying maturation periods with the longest, the Vintage maturing for up to two years to fully develop its full bodied, intensely creamy, caramel flavours.

We will also be introducing some pre-packed flavoured cheeses from Ford Farm, another West Country Farmhouse cheesemaker established forty years ago and using recipes dating back over 600 years. Their traditional cave aged Wookey Hole Cheddar has received many accolades and has a distinctive earthy flavour due to being coastal-cheddarmatured deep underground at the Wookey Hole Caves. Other cheeses included in this range are the Dorset Red – an oak smoked cheese, Double Gloucester with Chives and Onion and new to us the Coastal Cheddar – matured for at least 15 months with a distinctive crunch due to naturally forming calcium lactate crystals.

These branded pre-packs will be available from mid July so watch this space for more details!

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The Best Cheeses to enjoy this Spring!

April showers and brief glimpses of sunshine signal the beginning of a new season – spring! The slightly warmer weather coupled with a few drops of rain results in sweet and lush green grass which is enthusiastically chomped at by cows, goats and sheep who have likely been grazing on hay all winter; meaning fresh new cheeses full of the tastes, smells and feel of spring. We’ve listed a few of our favourite cheeses below that we think are best enjoyed at this time of year.

Fosseway Fleece from the Somerset Cheese Company is a perfect spring cheese. A hard, pasteurised ewes milk cheese, it is light and creamy with a fresh, mellow afterglow and slight sweetness. It is made in the style of Cheddar which makes it a great choice of ewes cheese novices.

A fantastic spring goat’s cheese is the Capricorn from Cricket St Thomas’ Lubborn Creamery. This is a soft, creamy cheese with an irresistible gooey centre and mild, clean and fresh flavour and a firm favourite of ours.

Sharpham2-1024x1024The Sharpham Estate produce some great year round cheeses. However we think spring is the perfect time to try their Rustic cheese. As it has yet to fully mature the cheese is fresh and clean tasting with lovely lemon and citrus flavours coupled with a slightly crumbly texture. It is also available with fresh garlic and chives which adds a delicious savoury depth to the cheese.

Beenleigh Blue is a ewes milk cheese made by Ticklemore Cheese in Totnes, South Devon. It has the bright, floral flavours characteristic of spring cheeses which develop into richer, creamier flavours as the cheese matures and a slightly crumbly texture.

Embrace the seasons and discover the vast seasonal differences in your favourite cheeses.

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Farmhouse vs. Factory Cheese

It goes without saying that there is a huge difference in quality between traditional, hand made artisan cheeses and generic, industrial cheeses.

Cheeses that are made, shaped and nurtured by hand have more care and expertise go into them than the bog standard Cheddar. They are also, in most circumstances, either made using milk from the makers own herd or sourced locally. The result is cheese that varies in taste, texture and overall appearance throughout the year. A Cheddar made on a small farm in Somerset has a very different taste to Cheddar made anywhere else. In fact there are only six dairies worldwide that make West Country Farmhouse Cheddar with Protected Designation of Origin status. This award is an assurance of the quality and authenticity of the cheese; it has to be made using milk from the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Devon or Cornwall, it must be made using traditional techniques such as ‘cheddaring’ or turning the curds by hand and it must be matured for at least nine months.

In contrast many processed cheeses are uniformly made using milk from a large number of different dairies in a very controlled process. A factory will produce many different cheeses and because of this the milk goes through a number of processes such as heat treating to minimise spoilage before pasteurisation and removing much of the fat content. In farmhouse cheeses this fat is essential to the flavour and texture of the cheese; while it isn’t as good for your waistline, it’ll certainly taste a lot better!

Here at Isca Foods we are passionate about supporting small-scale dairies and their fantastic cheeses. It is important that the skills and time-honoured techniques needed to make them are not lost. This is why we are proud to say that almost all of our cheeses can be traced back to the farm in which they were made. Have a look at our cheese pages for more information.

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