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Meet Three Artisanal Somerset Cheddar Cheesemakers

Meet Three Artisanal Somerset Cheddar Cheesemakers

Westcombe Dairy’s history has followed a somewhat serpentine path. Cheddar production on the farm dates back to the 1890s, and ownership changed hands several times.

One thing that didn’t change at Westcombe, even during the war years, was the production of Somerset cheddar. What did change was pasteurizing the milk, but every other step of the cheddar production remained.

In the 1970s, Westcombe hit a short-lived low point, and began to produce the industrialized block cheddar that most other cheddar producers had already switched to making.

Luckily, in the 1980s, owner Richard Calver decided it was time to return to the methods and roots that had made them successful in the past. The industrial buildings were torn down and a new dairy was built so that true Somerset Cheddar could be produced.

Fortunes at Westcombe changed again when in 2008, Richard’s son Tom took the role of cheesemaker, bringing many new techniques to Westcombe. They began producing a true artisanal cheddar. He also brought many modern and welcome changes to the dairy. 

Tom is deeply committed to sustainability and leaving a small footprint. Some of the changes he made include building a cave into the hillside for aging cheese rather than installing electric cooling systems. He also installed a water cooling system to keep the room at constant humidity and temperature. Westcombe was also the first to use a robot for cleaning and turning the cheeses.  

Tom’s enthusiasm for preserving the land and culture goes hand in hand with the philosophy of the Slow Food Presidium. Westcombe is highly regarded as one of the top cheddar producers in Somerset.

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