Blessed are the cheesemakers: Lady Prue

Categories: Product stories

A tangy, buttery cheese from Heritage Cheese, made from a blend of cow’s and goat’s milks

It has long been commonplace for new parents to name their children after their own mothers and fathers, reflecting a sense of love, pride and responsibility. For cheesemakers, it can be much the same story—with the obvious difference being that the recipient of the name is not a child, but a cheese. 

There are several cheeses out there that take their maker’s maternal moniker. One such is Lady Prue: brainchild of Mary Quicke and her team at Quicke’s Dairy. “My mum is called Prue, so when my father was knighted for services to agriculture in the 1970s she became a lady—rather reluctantly,” laughs Mary, who, remarkably, is the 14th generation to run the family farm in Newton St Cyres.

Playing around
The cheese recipe came, as so many do, while Mary and her colleagues were experimenting in the dairy. “We were playing around with mixing different milks, which isn’t something we do often here in the UK, but in America is quite common,” she explains. Where once, in more impoverished times, mixed milk cheeses were made for expediency—the milk of a more bounteous cow being used to bulk out the less plentiful ewes, for example—cheesemakers today do so in pursuit of flavour, with results varying from virtually inedible to deliciously interesting.

Lady Prue, of course, is not inedible. On the contrary, the triumvirate of ewe, goat and cow’s milk in equal parts is a triumph of cheesemaking. “My mother trained as an artist, and was told artistic training would stand her in good stead for anything she did,” says Mary. She may not have played much part in her namesake’s making, but there’s no doubting the artistry in Lady Prue. “It was my mother who built our current dairy—on top of having six children—and so when it came to naming the cheese, I wanted to celebrate that,” she says. In fact, prior to the industrial revolution, almost all cheesemakers were female, with the work of cutting the curds and straining the whey interspersed with baking, chasing children and all the other domestic tasks expected of women in those days.

Young and buttery
“We sell it quite young, quite buttery, and as it gets older it develops a pepperiness. It will be interesting to see, though, how it develops: we’ve only been making it since September.” Though softer than Mary’s cheddar, which is typically sharp and crystalline, there’s a bite to Lady Prue, and a tangy aftertaste robust enough to take even the most piquant of chutneys.

That said, it is a fragile cheese, the curds of goat’s milk being surprisingly soft for an animal of its hardy reputation. “You can’t leave the junket for a moment during the make. The lower protein of the milk makes it surprisingly slippery,” she continues. Mercifully, there is nothing slippery about the end product, which is a slicer, not a speader. There’s a hint of goat, but it’s only really discernible once you know there’s goat in it. “It’s very gently, and there’s a caramelly hint to the starter we are using, which is very nice,” Mary says—and with that, we’re sold and heading to Pimento Hill for chutneys.