History of smoking food
It wouldn't have been long after our ancestors first experimented with fire that they discovered the transformative effects of heat and smoke on food: flavouring, tenderising and preserving it.
The ancient art of smoking food dates back to pre-history and was once a vital practice in order to preserve and make food more palatable. The Scandinavians are known for smoking fish, whilst the Europeans are known for smoked meats and the famous Spanish chorizo. Now we are lucky enough not to worry about preservation, smoking food has developed into a skill with artisanal credentials which has gained momentum all over the world.
It's not just fish and meat that is being smoked either, the dark art has been trialled with nuts, jam, butter, olive oil and even cocktails. Home smokeries popping up in garden sheds show that smoking food is here to stay.
Provenance and terroir
With around 3,000 acres of woodland and pasture, our land not only spreads far but is deeply rooted with many mighty trees. In the late 1800s, as the Agricultural Depression began to bite, the fields on the estate weren't worth farming, so the Quicke family planted acres of acorns. Thank goodness they did - the results of their labours still stand to this day, making Newton St. Cyres a beautifully wooded parish.
The trees on the Quicke's estate are as ancient and complex as the soil that nourishes their roots. Our 375 hectares of woodland are comprised of a rich mosaic of species, including douglas fir, oak and sweet chestnut. We manage the woodlands as carefully as we do our cows, never pushing them beyond their limits and ultimately ensuring they provide a sustainable, renewable resource for the generations who follow us.
And our oak trees have an extra special job to do a bit closer to home… we use oak chips from trees grown on the Quicke’s estate to cold smoke our Oak Smoked Cheddar. When we tuck into our smoky cheese it feels that bit more magical to know that the oak tree used to smoke it grew tall, just a stone’s throw from where our cows graze.
After felling an oak tree on the estate, we put every part of the tree to good use. We start the process of smoking by turning the old oak into thousands of small oak chips, before scattering them over the floor in a disused barn to dry out. Then, after the moisture has left the chips, we put them into a wood burner which funnels the oaky smoke into our smokehouse here on Home Farm.
We use our Mature Cheddar for smoking to ensure we get that gentle balance of our quintessential grassy, buttery flavour - one which stands up against the smokiness without competing with it. To give more surface area for the cheese for the oak smoke to do its gentle magic, we cut 25kg wheels of cheese into 16ths and then place them on racks in the smoking room overnight. By morning they're infused with a subtle smokiness and the cheese is a few shades darker at the edges.