‘Don’t get too hung up on the recipe’ — Philip Wilton, Urban Cheese Maker

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When we think about the the countries credited for producing the world’s best cheeses, places like Italy and France often come to mind. But, a North London-based cheese maker is proving that England is perfectly capable of whipping up an award-winning wheel of its own. Inspired by the ‘magic and alchemy of changing milk into cheese,’ Philip Wilton of Wildes Cheese produces delicious artisan creations, and teaches people to make their own. We asked Philip some seriously cheesy questions, and here’s what he told us:

Have you always had a passion for cheese? Where did it begin?

For many years I have had a real passion for cheese and have spent far too much money in specialist cheese shops trying the cheeses of the world. Many years ago I had a job (straight out of school) in a supermarket working on its deli counter. In those days you had a massive choice of cheddar, processed cheese, or perhaps even a bit of Gouda. I remember their first delivery of real continental cheeses and I think my interest began then. As I grew older, the magic and alchemy of changing milk into cheese (similar to water into wine) inspired my imagination and drew me in.

With cheesemaking as your profession, could you possibly name your favourite type of cheese?

No, I can’t. But I will admit I am not keen on the strong-tasting cheeses. I like a cheese that is subtle and gentle and doesn’t present an eating challenge, but I also don’t like the soapy style flavoured by the supermarkets. And I can’t be doing with a blue.

Which cheeses are Wildes Cheese’s specialties?

We are cheese creators and innovators. We invest a lot of time and energy into making a new cheese. We don’t copy other recipes. I believe that customers are looking for something a bit different from the nationally available stuff and appreciate our difference and innovation. We are very much an egalitarian company and want our customers to enjoy what they eat – we are not part of the cheese elite and don’t care if you don’t know your sheep from your goat. We’re guilt-free and there’s no snobbery here.

What do you think is the secret to making a great cheese?

Milk: what else can I say? If you don’t use the best then you don’t get the best. We only use milk from a single farmer and don’t engage with the (abusive) mass market for milk. Our milk is 80% Jersey and is un-homogonised.

Skill: I truly believe that a skilled cheese maker can really understand their curds and cheese (I know it sounds weird but it is true) – a machine can only understand measurements. A skilled cheese maker understands the art, the craft and the science of their profession.

Trick question: what part of the world do you think the best cheese comes from?

Great Britain – why ask when the answer is obvious?

We see you create wedding ‘cakes’ made of cheese. Is this becoming more popular?

Most couples have a bit of cheese at their wedding buffet. So why not create a bit of theatre and drama, and have a cheese stack? A few triangles from a major retailer is not exactly thrilling or exciting. We are also working with a pie man to develop our own cheese and pork pie stack. I am so very excited about this development that I might just get married so I can buy the stack.

What have been your most exciting or unusual special commissions?

We are working closely with a few local breweries and developing a range of beer-soaked cheeses – what’s not to like? But I really liked the vodka-soaked prunes that we mixed in a Christmas creation a few years ago. You got cheese; you got fruit; you got alcohol: Christmas on a plate.

What type of classes does Wildes Cheese teach?

We run two cheesemaking classes; an evening class that includes a tour of the dairy, cheesy nibbles and making your own mozzarella.

We also offer a full day ‘make your own cheese at home’ course, which includes the making of a cream cheese, mozzarella, a soft brie-style and a hard cheese – you become the cheese maker for a day and get to take home your own handmade cheese.

These events are great fun and give groups the opportunity to fully immerse in the world of cheese making.

Any advice for a would-be cheese maker?

Don’t get too hung up on the recipe. If it says 30 degrees and you cook it at 33 by mistake – so what? – you will just make a slightly different cheese. Don’t be hard on yourself if it’s a bit ugly – who cares? – it will still taste divine. Don’t expect to be able to make a cheddar or manchego etc;  you don’t have the right conditions, so just enjoy what you can create.

Where can we find your cheese in London?

We sell our cheese at Alexandra Palace Market, Tottenham Green Market and Royal Arsenal Market. We also sell though a few good quality delis including Flesh & Flour in Muswell Hill and Budgens in Belsize Park  We also have an online shop.

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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