An interview with Joe Schneider: creator of Stichelton
An interview with Joe Schneider; creator and cheese-maker of the fabulous Stichelton cheese! Find out what Joe loves on the food scene, his ethos for his business, how he got started and his recommendations on the best places to eat and shop for food!
Brief synopsis of your business & career?
I started as an American living in Holland making Greek cheese for a Turk in 1995, fell in love with cheesemaking, and thought at the time Britain was doing the best job of preserving and showcasing its traditional cheese making heritage. So I moved to Sussex in 1998 where I worked on a small biodynamic farm. In 2001 I moved to Daylesford, designed and built Daylesford Creamery and developed a few cheeses for Sir Anthony and Lady Bamford. I stayed there 5 years until I was approached by Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy to start a project to, if allowed, bring back Raw Milk Stilton into production.
We weren’t allowed.
Tell me more about the farm that you work on?
Stichelton is made on a farm on Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire, and they are also our partners. They milk 150 Friesian / Holsteins and have milked cows here for over 40 years. In 2015, a major reinvestment in the dairy saw a new parlour go in, as well as cow sheds and silage facilities.
What made you get into doing what you do?
Cheesemaking is a unique form of craftsmanship that links the land, animals, maker, and the people who eat the food you make. It is a blend of hard empirical science, with a kind of alchemy that relies on experience and intuition. I love that about it
What is your philosophy for your food/business?
To keep it simple and genuine, and to make sure our cheese allows the nature of the farm, pasture, cows, and milk to shine through in an authentic way. We want Stichelton Dairy to be a rewarding place to work, small enough that everyone feels like they can contribute something meaningful. And we want to sell only to people who get it, who make it fun to sell cheese because they are impassioned and dedicated.
Describe a typical working day.
We run warm milk into the vats at 7am, add the starter and the rennet, and wait for the milk to set. Stichelton is all about setting up initial conditions, and then waiting. We cut the curd around 10 am, let it sit in the whey for a few hours, then ladle the curd into a long cooling trolley to acidify and drain overnight. At the same time in the morning we will be milling, salting, and hooping yesterday’s make. We might also be rubbing up cheeses made a week ago, or piercing cheeses that are ready to blue up. And there is always turning to do. Always.
What’s the best part of your job? And do you have a favourite memory from work?
The best part? When you get it right. Making cheese from one herd is a bit like making a single malt. You get all the high and low characteristics of your milk from feed changes, season, breeding cycles etc. When it all comes together to make a perfect cheese, it reminds us why we do this everyday.
When you are at home what is your staple dish for the family?
We don’t eat staples.
What is your favourite place to go eat (if you’re not eating at yours!)?
When I go to London I like to eat at Raef’s place on Maltby Street (40 Maltby Street).
Do you have any other hidden foodie gems you think are worth people knowing about – shops, producers or otherwise?
Kernel Brewery for beer, I love our farmshop at Welbeck, and most of my weight gain comes from the pastries at Boutique Aromatique.
Do you have a favourite cheese at the moment? If so, why is it your favourite?
Kirkham’s Lancashire. Graham is a Professor of cheese and his cheese is firing on all cylinders at the moment.
If you had to choose a drink to go with cheese what would it be? and why?
I paired mine with a Canadian ice wine once, that was amazing. Otherwise, I’d choose copious amounts of Kernel Brewery Pale Ale.
Where do you look for inspiration in your business?
To all my cheese heroes who make cheese on their farms with raw milk.
What couldn’t you live without?
What is the best success you’ve had with your product?
I’ve won a few awards, which is nice, but for me success means the people coming back week in week out to buy Stichelton.
What are your plans for the future?
I’d like to win a victory for the British public by changing the current PDO regulations for Stilton to allow the use of raw milk.
You can support Joe’s ambition to call change the PDO regulations and allow Stilton to be made with raw milk as it used to be by signing petitions in support with with Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/department-for-environment-food-and-rural-affairs-help-joe-schneider-support-his-fight-to-make-raw-milk-stilton and Slow Food: http://www.slowfood.com/support-stilton/.
You can buy Joe’s creation: Stichelton, here, or follow him on twitter @sticheltondairy.