Meet the Producer

Get your melt on!

Our Somerset Brie is made in the heart of the English countryside, with the help of some cows who graze on the best grass around. Rosie Mullender heads to the West Country to find out how this Christmas cheeseboard essential is made.

"Different people like different flavours, and our Brie develops over time. We’re proud to be producing a cheese that, I think, in a lot of cases is at is at least as good as its French counterpart"

Matthew Organ, Lubbom Creamery

Grass, it turns out, is all-important when it comes to making Co-op Somerset Brie. ‘We have 243 acres of land here, and 235 milking cows,’ says Sarah, who comes from a long line of farmers going back 500 years.

‘Our herd are picky eaters, so we measure and check the grass to make sure it’s the best quality — too old and woody, and it’s not easy to digest; too young, and it’s too rich.

Between each milking, we move the cows to a fresh block so they’re getting the best grass possible each time.’ Before today, I didn’t realise that producing milk containing the ideal amount of fats and proteins to make cheese was such a science.

But the farm has spent the last eight years perfecting it — and all the 970,000 litres a year they make go to Lubborn Creamery, the dairy where Co-op Somerset Brie is made.

"The final product is only as good as the raw material, so we have a close relationship with all our farmers"

At the creamery, which is just down the road, Lubborn’s technical manager, Matthew Organ, agrees that milk, sourced from just six farms across Devon, Dorset and Somerset, is key to the superb taste of his cheese.

‘The final product is only as good as the raw material, so we have a close relationship with all our farmers,’ says Matthew, who’s worked at the dairy for 25 years. ‘A lot of effort goes into finding farmers like Sarah, and working closely with them.’

The basic cheese-making process is similar whether you’re making creamy Somerset Brie, Red Leicester or tangy Cheddar. Cultures and rennet (an enzyme that helps set the cheese; our Brie uses a vegetarian rennet) are added to cooled, pasteurised milk to make it solidify. Next, the curds are separated from the whey.

Then, to make Brie, the curds are shaped into hoops, turned onto a textured board to give the rind its unique pattern, and left to drain for 24 hours.

The cheese is then turned again, lightly salted, and matured for around 10 days. After that, it’s wrapped and ripened for around three weeks (in a room that smells like a cheese counter), before it’s finally ready to be sliced into wedges, ready for Co-op customers to enjoy.

What makes Brie different from other cheeses is that it isn’t pressed, which keeps it so moist. Special white mould cultures are also added to the milk to give the cheese its soft white coat.

‘Lots of people ask me if you can eat the rind, and I say yes, definitely!’ Matthew says. ‘It adds texture and a lovely, mushroomy flavour — and if it’s a good Brie like ours, it should blend beautifully with the rest of the cheese.’

‘Different people like different flavours, and our Brie develops over time,’ Matthew explains. ‘It starts out with a soft tang, and is quite firm. Then, as it ripens, it becomes more creamy and glossy, with a greater depth of flavour and a softer texture. We’re proud to produce a Brie that, I think, in a lot of cases is at least as good as its French counterpart.’ And, of course, when you buy Co-op Somerset Brie you know the cows who helped produce it were raised to British welfare standards, and that you’re supporting British farmers.

Perhaps the last word should go to Sarah at West Dibberford: ‘We’re trying to create something better than the rest, so it’s all about quality, not quantity,’ she says, stroking a cow’s nose. ‘We make the best of the land to help us produce the best milk, which makes the best cheese. And I love Brie!’