Neal’s Yard Dairy is a prominent name in the world of cheese. With three shops in London and a thriving wholesale and global export business, their work is linked by a common vision: developing, curating, and delivering outstanding cheeses in excellent condition.
Clare and John have both made recent visits to the heart of Neal’s Yard Dairy: their new HQ and maturing rooms, tucked away in former railway arches in Bermondsey, south London.
Welcomed by Jamie Hall, Clare and John saw how a unique combination of traditional cheese care and new technology ensures that each cheese is matured under perfect conditions of temperature and humidity for the right length of time.
The Neal's Yard team begins its involvement with cheese at each farm or dairy. They work with cheesemakers who are developing new recipes and also those producing existing British classics. Cheesemongers from Neal's Yard regularly visit farms to select the best cheese and give the cheesemakers feedback on recent batches. They also help cheesemakers anticipate likely demand, particularly ahead of the peak Christmas period, so their cheeses are available not only in the right quantities but also in perfect condition.
Often the team "brings on" a particular cheese back at the London maturing rooms. For example this is where fresh St Judes are transformed into meaty, flavoursome St Ceras, and some Kirkham's Lancashire gets aged an extra three to six months to develop a richer, longer flavour. It is important to have the right equipment: humidifiers; cooling equipment; washing and disinfecting tools, but nothing substitutes for the experience of the small team of people who oversee this care and maturing of cheeses. They taste the cheeses; brine wash them; turn them, often daily or weekly; and move them from room to room to vary temperature and humidity. With truckles of cheese weighing up to 25kg, it is unlikely that any trips to the gym are needed after work!
Cheeses need careful selection, maturing and packing for different markets. To supply shops and restaurants across the world from Hong Kong to New York, cheese needs to depart south London in the condition that allows it to arrive at its final destination showcasing the best of British cheese.
Perhaps not as difficult as getting cheese to the UAE, nevertheless Neal’s Yard Dairy takes the same care in getting cheese in the best condition to us at Slate in Aldeburgh and Southwold. We are particularly excited that later this month the weekly courier delivery will be replaced by a direct delivery in their own refrigerated vehicles. This will mean we can add to the range of cheese additional items such as Neal’s Yard Dairy yoghurt, curd and even eggs. Something to look forward to!