Now that really is impressive. Especially when some of the judges don’t have anything to do with cheese! “We select judges from around the world and from all aspects of the industry including chefs, buyers, journalists, young and old, male and female” says John Farrand who’s family started the awards over 25 years ago. “We even use wine and tea tasting judges as they have such an educated palate and give a unique perspective to judging.”
Barber’s have been amongst the medal winners many times over the years and 2013 was no exception. Their 1833 Vintage was shortlisted in the World’s Top 50 cheeses in 2012 and Barber’s 1833 won Gold again in 2013. “Judges will be looking for a cheddar with lots of character, something that’s really alive, with definable flavours that arrive separately but come together to form a happy marriage” says John.
“What makes Barber’s distinct is the science of its starter cultures. This is at the heart of good cheddar and Barber’s have the expertise to tweak the recipe depending on the starter culture used, for subtle but fascinating differences. Overall they are making a consistently great product. There are lots of artisan cheeses out there, but don’t assume that just because something’s made in small batches it’s necessarily good. They often are, but sometimes with artisan food producers you get inconsistency and faults,” asserts John.
So if Barber’s are doing all they can to produce consistently brilliant cheddar, what can we do to serve it at its best? “Cheese must be able to breathe before it’s served” says John. “At home I keep cheese in a sealed box in the fridge then take it out at least 2 hours before eating and lay a clean damp tea towel over it. If it’s a cheddar then I like to eat it with a ripe pear or apple, or given its wonderful heritage in the West Country, maybe a glass of cider or beer – there’s certainly something to be said for terroir and enjoying foods that are locally produced together.”
“This year the awards will be held at the end of November and we’ll be taking most of our entries online very soon.” So watch this space to see if Barber’s are winners again in 2014!