Blessed are the cheesemakers: Edmund Tew

Categories: Product stories

An Australian-born, British-made cheese from Blackwoods Cheese Company

On 13th July 1829, a young Leicesterman named Edmund Tew was condemned to be deported to Australia for seven years. His crime? The stealing of a loaf of bread, some cheese and beer from the home of one John Boot in Leicester. He was just 16 years old: yet the Leicester Chronicle notes that he “heard his sentence with the most perfect indifference” before setting sail for Port Arthur. 

Now, the Aussies at Blackwoods Cheese Company have ventured from Down Under to set up their south-east London dairy—and happily, you can pick up their Australian-born, British-made cheese at Borough Market, entirely within the confines of the law.

“Edmund Tew was one of a number of convicts sent to Australia for stealing cheese,” explains co-founder Dave Holton. “I love that description of his ‘perfect indifference’. It felt apt to name it after him.” The cheese has attitude, too: it’s raw milk (an unheard of practice in Australia) “funky and farm-y”, and it has “big flavours,” Dave continues. 

Blackwoods Cheese Company

Creamy, malty unctuousness
Compared to his first cheese, the Graceburn—a Persian-style feta—it is far more challenging to make and mature. “It demands far more attention, it’s very hands on. It’s a work in progress,” Dave insists, though you’d not know it to taste it. At a bite, the peachy rind’s punchy, slightly citrusy notes give way to the creamy, malty unctuousness of the snowy inside. Its nearest relative is a langres, though without the strong whiff of booze.

A lactic cow’s cheese, it has a long, slow make: “We collect the milk in the afternoon, add the rennet, leave it to acidify and curdle overnight. The following day, we ladle the curds into the moulds and leave them to drain for a few days,” Dave continues, “then they’re matured in Neal’s Yard Dairy’s maturing rooms.”

An exciting cheese
The cheese is brine-washed regularly to encourage the formation of a rind that, to be blunt, looks like a brain’s cortex—all wrinkly and prune-like. The yeast causing this is called geotrichum candidum, but “there’s a lot of microbial diversity encouraged by the process of washing. That’s what makes this such an exciting cheese.”

Come early next year, Blackwoods’ new dairy (on the organic Kent farm from whence they source the milk) will have its own maturing rooms, where no doubt Dave and his business partner Tim Jarvis will continue to refine it—but already, this is a cheese whose attraction could easily have put Edmund Tew back in the dock.