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‘Send Some Cheer’ – cheese masterclass in a box from Darts Farm.
Darts Farm in Topsham, Devon, is a family business run by the Dart brothers; the retail wing is looked after by Michael and James and the farm is headed up by Paul. Over the past 25 years it has evolved organically to become one of the most exciting shopping experiences in the South West, but at its heart is a working farm selling homegrown produce.
In the light of lockdown, with an immediate fall in footfall following the new enforcements and the news from many of their loyal suppliers that they had been delisted from supermarkets as a direct result of the outbreak, Darts Farm knew they had to act quickly to stop a huge amount of produce going to waste and to meet new consumer demand.
Michael Dart, Director of Darts Farm, says: “This has been a complete disaster for the local food industry. Normal routes to market for producers have dissolved practically overnight. All businesses have had to adapt quickly to try their best to survive.
We suddenly had customers crying out for home delivery, whilst neighbouring Dart Fresh Produce – a family run business since 1957 supplying produce to the wholesale, multiple, retail and catering trades – found they had nowhere to deliver their fresh produce. Dart Fresh Produce works closely with a number of local and national growers and were about to see a distressing increase in fresh produce waste.”
Michael continues: “After one phone call, we joined forces and now deliver a large number of boxes filled with seasonal vegetables, fruit, salad, Devon meats across the nation each day.”
So, with food boxes in the bag, one great idea led to another and Darts Farm began to think of ways in which they could begin to cheer people up during this hard time and they created ‘Send Some Cheer’ boxes which can be posted to all. Then came the Tasting Experience boxes, filled with cider or beer, cheese or charcuterie. Each box contains an array of the best hand-selected products, tasting notes and producer information – a masterclass in a box. Keeping the innovation flowing, this was followed by a ‘Mindful Cooking Box’, everything you need to bake a cake, create brownies or master the art of preserves.
They have also managed to look after those that need it most in their community with free delivery for over 70-year-olds and the vulnerable and they introduced an ‘Easter tuck box’ initiative. With donations from their loyal customers and contributions from their brilliant local artisan producers, Darts Farm provided tuck boxes to Exeter Foodbank to distribute to families that need it most in the community.
My ‘Send Some Cheer’ cheese box
As a cheese lover, I have been lucky enough to be sent one of their excellent boxes filled with a delicious selection of four different world-class cheeses from local farmhouse producers all who need support at this difficult time. It arrived in a handsome box dressed in a red ribbon. These artisan cheeses were at their optimum, so all it called, for now, was to eat and enjoy…
Berkswell was first developed by Shelia Fletcher at Ram Hall in the late 1980s. Her son Stephen now farms several hundred milking sheep whilst Julie overlooks the cheesemaking process. Berkswell is a specialist cheese often eaten in restaurants, which means now more than ever it needs our support. it is never pressed but moulded in the distinctive shape of a kitchen collider. This delicious raw, hard sheep’s milk cheese is sometimes likened to a Manchego. It has a slightly crumbly texture, nutty and savoury and perfect with a sourdough cracker and some quince jelly.
Beenleigh Blue was first made in 1978 and is now made by Ben Harris from Ticklemore Dairy near Totnes. He uses pasteurised sheep’s milk farmed by Tom and Helen Garland to make this wonderfully creamy blue cheese. Ben follows a traditional Roquefort recipe; however, the cheese has a distinct style of its own. I loved this rather sophisticated, creamy blue; clean and yogurty with delicate floral favours.
Doddington Raw Cow’s Milk
Doddington is raw cow’s milk cheese made with natural rennet. Maggie Maxwell uses still warm milk form her brother’s herd of Fresian and Ayreshire cows to make each batch of Doddington daily. She believes that the freshness of the milk is key to the quality of the final cheese. Doddington is a hard-pressed cheese, that sits somewhere between a Cheddar and Leicester in a recipe that can taste similar to parmesan. Matured for up to 24 months it develops a distinctive red rind that encases its beautiful yellow interior. Its strong flavours and savoury walnut notes make this an excellent choice, great for after dinner with a good glass of red wine.
From Jersey to Somerset with Ogleshield
Jamie Montgomery of Montgomery Cheddar and Tim Griffey make Ogleshield in Somerset exclusively from Jersey cow milk. Initially called Jerseyshield, the cheese spawned its new name from former senior cheese maturer at Neal’s Yard Dairy, William Oglethorpe. He discovered a way to improve the cheese by washing it in a brine solution – changing the levels of acidity in the rind. This soft, smooth and nutty cheese is remarkably tasty and very moreish definitely one of my favourites. It is also quite versatile and it’s recommended for cooking because of its soft pliant texture.
There something very special about receiving a box of these high-quality artisan cheeses, it would make a perfect gift if you are not choosing to indulge yourself. It reminded me that eating good cheese is one of life’s real pleasures and with produce as fresh and delicious as this, there is no excuse not to buy British cheeses, especially when you can have it delivered right to your doorstep. And in the process, we can help the local artisan producers and cheese producers who really need our support in these unprecedented times.
For more information and to order from Darts Farm, do check their website
You can find out more about their current cheese collection here. I can’t think of a better way to help support our British Artisan Cheesemakers than ordering a collection – as a treat for yourself – or if you are feeling generous, for someone else!