We love working with Lyburn Farm – who provide delicious cheese for our Hampers, but we wanted to bring a little more insight to you about behind the scenes.
White coat, hair net, white wellies on, Flora from The Forest Foodie met up with Mike Smales (the main man) to chat all things cheese.
Flora: How long have you been farming here in Landford in The New Forest?
Mike: We have been here at Lyburn Farm since 1969.
Flora: How much cheese do you make here per day?
Mike: We use 3,000 litres of cows milk per day which makes 350KG of curd cheese.
Flora: Can you talk me through the process?
Mike: The cows are milked at 5am, the milk then goes straight into the tanker, uncooled (which saves energy when heating up in the pasturiser), the milk then flows by gravity into the pasturiser, and then into the cheese vat which is then temperature controlled to within 0.5 centigrade. Then after 3 hours, we have split the curd for the whey, and the curd is then placed in the cheese moulds. At 6am the following day, the young cheese is then brined for 24 hours, and then to the drying room for 1 week (turning often to ensure the whey is evenly distributed), and finally they then go through to the ripening room for 8-9 weeks. The Stoney Cross goes into a much damper, colder ripening room where it grows the velvety mould, which is then brushed on a weekly basis.
Flora: How many variations of cheese do you make?
Mike: We make Lyburn Gold, Garlic & Nettle (both of which remain mostly in Hampshire), Old Winchester which is by far our most popular. It’s matured for 18months+. We have Stoney Cross which has won more prizes than the Old Winchester recently, and has a velvety mould rind, and a Lightly Oak Smoked. Our smoked cheese is smoked at a week old, by The Dorset Smokery. Our Garlic & Nettle flavours are added at the end of the cheesemaking process to incorporate the ingredients into the curd.
Flora: Where do you sell your cheese?
Mike: We deliver to the Co-Op (Southern branches), Waitrose take our Stoney Cross (again Southern parts only), lots of restaurants, local pubs, local suppliers like you guys at The Forest Foodie, we also work with the Cruise Liners that run out of Southampton.
Mike then kindly showed me around the milking parlour, an incredibly high tech new system has been installed to milk 170 cows. When each one goes through the barriers to be milked the chip activates the computer to tell the machines exactly how much feed needs to be dropped to their trough whilst they are milking, depending on their lactation cycle and how much milk they can produce.
It was a pleasure visiting, and to see more from behind the scenes. They work incredibly diligently. The whole place is immaculate. This is what it’s all about for us – knowing exactly where our food comes from and the brilliant people behind it. Thank you Mike!