Producer of the Month: Graham Padfield, Founder, Bath Soft Cheese
Given Bath Soft Cheese's similarity in appearance to camembert you would be forgiven for considering it not to be true British produce. However, it is steeped in British history and made in one of the nation's most beautiful cities. In fact, the cheese dates from at least 1790 and it was recommended to Lord Nelson by his father in a letter in 1801. The recipe that is used today by the Padfield family at their Park Farm dairy dates from 1908. It was discovered by Graham Padfield, the founder and third generation dairy farmer, in a library in Bath.
Once the Bath Soft Cheese is made it lasts for seven weeks, becoming stronger in flavour and runnier in consistency. It is produced in 10 cm-square, 260g parcels. The dairy employs two people but has held off competition from many larger dairies in various contests. Graham's Wyfe of Bath cheese is named after the character in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The curds are placed in a cloth lined 'basket' mould, in much the same way as a farmer's wife would have done centuries ago.
Why do you do what you do?
I am a farmer and cheese maker. I thrive in working in the open air with the land and the elements. I love the idea that I create delicious cheese starting from nothing but my land, my cows and the weather.
- What achievement are you most proud of?
I am proud of our resilience. We want to farm our land naturally but it means we are a lot more dependent on nature. This spring, in particular, when there was very little rain it looked like we weren't going to have enough grass. Unlike most people, I was happy when June, July and August turned out to be quite wet. I am also very proud of all the awards our cheeses have won.
- What is your most memorable moment?
Discovering the recipe for Bath Soft Cheese in an old grocer's book. I wanted to start making a cheese that was truly historic. I found the grocers book in Bath reference library. The recipe dates from at least 1790. Admiral Nelson himself praised Bath Cheese in a letter to his father in 1801. The recipe specified spreading salt on the young cheese "with the aid of a feather". We don't use a feather but we do still add the salt dry instead of soaking in salty water (brine) like most cheeses are. The recipe gives the cheese its unique flavour and gooey texture.
- If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you do to encourage more people to eat British food?
Talk more about the importance of buying British food for the sake of maintaining our environment, our rural economy and our traditional landscape.
- What is your favourite food and why?
- What are your predictions for the future of British food?
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
- Best budget tip?
- What's on the menu this evening?
- How can people get hold of your produce?