a raw milk artisan cheese

Baron Bigod is the only traditional raw milk Brie-de-Meaux style cheese produced in the UK and one of only a handful of its type in the world to be made by the farmer on the farm. Beneath the nutty, mushroomy rind, Baron Bigod has a smooth, silky golden breakdown which will often ooze out over a delicate, fresh and citrussy centre.

Baron Bigod is made by hand in small batches, very early in the morning so that we can use the raw milk still warm, straight from the cow at the perfect temperature for cheesemaking. The mould cultures are added to the warm morning’s milk and it is gently gravity fed into small vats just a few metres from the milking parlour, where the rennet is added. The curds are carefully hand-ladled into large moulds, using traditional pelle-a-brie ladles and the young cheeses are hand salted and then aged for up to 8 weeks in a cave-like environment. It is a unique expression of the incredible milk of our free-ranging Montbeliarde cows and the diversity of our wildlife-rich grazing marshland.

The finest brie cheese I have ever tasted….No ifs or buts.. The finest…

Nicholas Partner / Fen Farm Dairy Customer

What is our secret?

Here at Fen Farm, we believe in provenance and care in farming and food production. Over the years, we’ve learnt a few things and we’d like to share them with you. Here are the 8 key elements that we believe make our products the very best:

Full Control over the Process

The quality of cheese and dairy products are influenced by hundreds of vital factors, from a farm’s soil microbiome, to the quality of the cow’s diet, the health and wellbeing of the herd and the skills of the cheesemaker. Here at Fen Farm, we have full control over this cycle, from start to finish. We grow our own forage and grazing right here in the surrounding landscape. We care for every cow in our herd as an individual and we care for our precious milk from the moment it leaves the cow. This level of control helps us to ensure that you receive the highest quality products, every time.

Raw

The milk that goes into our products is just as nature intended, raw and unpasteurised. It is a unique expression of the “terroir” of our farm, its delicate ecosystems and the care we put into our herd and pasture. These factors all combine to give our milk an unrivalled depth and complexity of flavour.

Undamaged

The delicate fat and protein molecules in milk can be easily damaged by pumping and transportation and this makes for poor cheese. This is why we gently gravity feed our fresh warm milk straight from the milking parlour to the cheesemaking rooms at each morning’s milking, meaning our cheese retains all the incredible characteristics of our fresh raw milk.

Bacteria and Rennet

We use the best bugs to make our cheese! A fusion of the unique lactic bacteria native to our farm and the finest French cheesemaking cultures combine to create the complex flavours and aromas in our products.

Feed and Care

Our cows live a free-ranging life on our wildlife rich basin marshlands and thrive on a diet of homegrown pasture and forage. We aim to grow all our winter feed ourselves, within a few miles of our farm. We care for our cows’ wellbeing from the inside out, meaning they are healthy, happy and fit. Happy cows live longer, are far less likely to become ill and give the best quality milk. We believe you can taste this care in the complexity and richness of our products.

Really, really fresh

Milk naturally starts to deteriorate in quality within 24 hours of leaving the cow. This is why our products are made using the freshest warm milk, straight from the cow, very early in the morning, so you get the benefit of eating it as it should be. Incredibly full-flavoured and delicious.

Breed of Cow

Our girls are of the ancient Montbeliarde breed, originating from the alpine Jura region of France. “Monty” cows have been prized for centuries for their cheesemaking milk, which is used to make some of the world’s finest cheeses, such as Comte, Vacherin Mont D’Or and Reblochon. They don’t give much milk but the milk they do give is protein rich, exquisitely flavoured and ideal for making great cheese and dairy products.

The hand craft of people

Just this. The subtle care and attention that a pair of human hands can bring to the things we create. No piece of machinery can imitate the gentleness required of a great cheesemaker when navigating the change of seasons. We know that human hands can adapt quicker and that’s why all our products are made right here on our farm, by true artisans, who really care.

Full Control over the Process

The quality of cheese and dairy products are influenced by hundreds of vital factors, from a farm’s soil microbiome, to the quality of the cow’s diet, the health and wellbeing of the herd and the skills of the cheesemaker. Here at Fen Farm, we have full control over this cycle, from start to finish. We grow our own forage and grazing right here in the surrounding landscape. We care for every cow in our herd as an individual and we care for our precious milk from the moment it leaves the cow. This level of control helps us to ensure that you receive the highest quality products, every time.

Raw

The milk that goes into our products is just as nature intended, raw and unpasteurised. It is a unique expression of the “terroir” of our farm, its delicate ecosystems and the care we put into our herd and pasture. These factors all combine to give our milk an unrivalled depth and complexity of flavour.

Undamaged

The delicate fat and protein molecules in milk can be easily damaged by pumping and transportation and this makes for poor cheese. This is why we gently gravity feed our fresh warm milk straight from the milking parlour to the cheesemaking rooms at each morning’s milking, meaning our cheese retains all the incredible characteristics of our fresh raw milk.

Bacteria and Rennet

We use the best bugs to make our cheese! A fusion of the unique lactic bacteria native to our farm and the finest French cheesemaking cultures combine to create the complex flavours and aromas in our products.

Feed and Care

Our cows live a free-ranging life on our wildlife rich basin marshlands and thrive on a diet of homegrown pasture and forage. We aim to grow all our winter feed ourselves, within a few miles of our farm. We care for our cows’ wellbeing from the inside out, meaning they are healthy, happy and fit. Happy cows live longer, are far less likely to become ill and give the best quality milk. We believe you can taste this care in the complexity and richness of our products.

Really, really fresh

Milk naturally starts to deteriorate in quality within 24 hours of leaving the cow. This is why our products are made using the freshest warm milk, straight from the cow, very early in the morning, so you get the benefit of eating it as it should be. Incredibly full-flavoured and delicious.

Breed of Cow

Our girls are of the ancient Montbeliarde breed, originating from the alpine Jura region of France. “Monty” cows have been prized for centuries for their cheesemaking milk, which is used to make some of the world’s finest cheeses, such as Comte, Vacherin Mont D’Or and Reblochon. They don’t give much milk but the milk they do give is protein rich, exquisitely flavoured and ideal for making great cheese and dairy products.

The hand craft of people

Just this. The subtle care and attention that a pair of human hands can bring to the things we create. No piece of machinery can imitate the gentleness required of a great cheesemaker when navigating the change of seasons. We know that human hands can adapt quicker and that’s why all our products are made right here on our farm, by true artisans, who really care.

Cheese

And all about how it’s made

1

Still warm and fresh from the milking parlour, our milk heads directly into the cheese making building next door. What makes our process so unique is that we gently feed the milk into our cheesemaking vats via gravity. This avoids using pumps, which would destroy the flavour and integrity of the delicate milk.

2
Head cheesemaker Marc ads carefully selected strains of lactic bacteria to the milk. These live cultures quickly begin to acidify the milk, to start the cheesemaking process.
3

During the early stages of the cheesemaking process, we keep testing the milk temperature and acidity levels. This is incredibly important to make sure the cheese is a consistent product every time.

4

Once the milk meets the desired acidity, we gravity feed it into a series of small vats, ready for renneting.

5
Once we have calculated the precise amount of rennet required, we stir it into the milk. The natural enzymes in the rennet begin to coagulate the milk.
6

Within a precisely calculated window, the rennet transforms the milk into a firm jelly, called curd.

7

The pH and firmness of the curd are carefully monitored. By watching the curd closely, the cheesemaking team know exactly when to cut the curd. Precise cuts are made in the jelly-like curd, to allow the whey (liquid part of the milk) to escape from the curd (solid part of the milk).

8
As the whey escapes, it forms a deep puddle on top of the curd, which we carefully skim from the top of the vats.
9

The real skill in our cheesemaking process and what we believe makes it so artisanal, is the human element. No machine can emulate this level of care and attention. At this stage of the cheesemaking, we carefully hand-ladle all the curd in small layers into hoop-shaped moulds.

10

A great deal of care and focus is invested at this stage to make sure every single cheese has the right quality and quantity of curd added to the hoops.

11
Over the next few hours, we turn the cheeses over in their hoops to allow the correct level of drainage and to create the shape of the finished cheese. By 9:30pm, the working day is done but the cheesemaking process continues into the next day.
12

At 5am on day 2, we de-hoop the cheeses and after a moisture test and recording of weight, we sprinkle a carefully measured quantity of salt onto both sides of each cheese.

13
Once salted, the cheese begins it’s maturing process. Over the following few days, each cheese will be hand-turned daily in a warm room, to allow the moulds to develop evenly.
14
By about day 4, little specks of white mould begin to form on the cheese surfaces. In the coming days, the cheese grows more and more of the white mould which is called Penicillium Candidum. Other moulds and yeasts that are native only to our farm and have come in through the air vents or have established in the maturing rooms over time, also begin to grow. 
15
We are very careful about how we wash the maturation rooms and walls, as so many of the unique flavours and characteristics of our cheese come from the environment around the farm. We don’t want to disturb the balance!
 
16
Once the cheeses are fully covered in white mould, we then wrap each one in waxed paper and place it in special poplar wood boxes. The boxes play a very important part in the maturation of the cheese, as they help create the right environment for the moulds to break down the curd of the cheese into all that delicious gooeyness.
17
Throughout the maturation stages, we taste-test the cheeses at certain ages to check that the maturation is going to plan (it’s a hard life). During these taste tests, we also make decisions about where and when each batch of cheese will be sold, depending on our customer’s requirements.
18

Several weeks later, the cheeses are now ready to be eaten. The gooeyness and flavours intensify when the cheese is left at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour before eating.

Butter

And all about how it’s made

1
After leaving the cows teats, the still-warm milk passes through a cream separator. Using centrifugal force, the process allows the creamy part of the milk to gravitate through a pipe and into buckets.
2
We carefully check the thickness of the cream during the separation process. It’s really important to be accurate at this stage, to make sure we have a consistent product at the end of the process.
3

As the raw cream fills the buckets, we add carefully chosen lactic bacteria to each bucket. These live cultures quickly get to work acidifying the cream.

4

The following day we test the cream with a pH reader to check the precise acidity level, before putting the cream in the chiller at a very low temperature. This chill time activates the build up of butter crystals in the cream.

5
We leave the cream to rest for a few days, to allow the live cultures to work their magic, then we begin the butter churning stage. We pour the buckets of cultured cream into our butter churn.
6

We carefully check the thickness of the cream once more and take temperature checks to be sure the cream is in the perfect condition for churning.

7

After a few minutes of churning, the cream starts to become whipped.

8
After a little more churning, small balls of butter begin to form.
9

At this stage, the cream has separated into solids (small balls of butter) and liquids (buttermilk).

10

We drain the buttermilk from the churn and bottle it for sale. It makes a fabulous ingredient for baking and cooking.

11
Now we add iced water to the churn to wash any remaining buttermilk from the butter balls and firm up the butter.
12

We then begin the process of kneading the butter to remove most of the moisture.

15
We mix in the finest sea salt from our shores, to make our salted butter.
16
After a further 3 days of maturing and chilling, we finally shape our butter by moulding and cutting it.
17

Each portion of butter is beautifully hand wrapped and finally placed into little boxes to keep them safe and secure.

Skyr

And all about how it’s made

1
The skyr making process begins in the same way as buttermaking, when we separate the cream from the milk to achieve the skimmed (fat-free) milk necessary for making a traditional icelandic-style skyr. The skimmed milk is then gravity-fed into a large stainless steel vat, where we heat it to a high temperature. This heating process helps to create a silky consistency in the finished yoghurt. 
 
2
We bring the temperature back down again to allow us to add our carefully selected strains of lactic cultures to the milk. These live bacteria instantly get to work acidifying the milk. By the following morning, the milk in the vat has set and now resembles an enormous self-set yoghurt. At this point, we stir the yoghurt until it becomes a fine mush.
 
3

True to the traditional Icelandic method, we pour the yoghurt into straining tables with muslin cloth laid inside.

4
We stir the contents of the muslin cloth for several hours by hand as the yoghurt thickens.
5
After a time, the skyr yoghurt becomes thick with a silky texture.
6

When it’s ready to eat, we pour the finished yoghurt into our yoghurt dispenser, ready to fill the yoghurt pots.

7
For our layers skyrs, we add delicious fruit conserves from England Preserves to the pot first.
8
The pots are then filled carefully, to keep the preserves and the yoghurt from mixing in the pot.
9

Finally, the lids go on and our finished skyr yoghurts are ready for the chiller.

Milk

And all about how it’s made

1
Every morning at 4am we head down to the fields to open the gate and let the cows head back to the farm for milking. During the summer months, this part of the day is the most beautiful in our opinion. The same routine happens again every afternoon at 3pm.
2
The cows are usually very keen to head back to the farm and like to walk in a line following the cow in front. The same cow is always the leader. While they’re being milked,  we set up the fences on their next grazing field, ready for them to enjoy when they come out of the milking parlour.
3

The girls enter the collection yard by the milking parlour where they watch the milking and queue for their turn to be milked. They love to queue and have established their own system, with certain cows taking their “favourite” places in the milking parlour. Each cow will watch and wait until her preferred place in the queue becomes available.

4
In the milking parlour, each cow has what we call teat preparation, before we milk them. During teat preparation, we first squeeze a little milk from the teat to visually check that the udder and milk looks healthy.
 
5
Next, we apply a gentle cleaning foam that covers the teats for 30 seconds. Then finally, we give each teat a double wipe with a sterile flannel to get the area spotless. Our flannels are reusable and are sterilised between milkings.
 
6
Finally, the milking clusters go on. These are soft suction cups designed to milk the cow in a comfortable way and it takes about 5 minutes for the cow to be fully milked. We then dip the end of the cow’s teat in a little iodine before she leaves the milking parlour. The iodine helps to keep the open end of the teat safe from dirt and infection as she walks back to the field.
 
7
Our raw milk is gravity-fed straight from the milking parlour to our making rooms, to make many different products around the farm during the week but here it is going straight into our raw drinking milk vender at only a few minutes old.