Lancashire Life food editor Philippa James visits Butler's Lancashire Cheeses

PUBLISHED: 01:47 11 June 2012 | UPDATED: 18:08 09 March 2016

Lancashire Life food editor Philippa James visits Butler's Lancashire Cheeses

Lancashire Life food editor Philippa James visits Butler's Lancashire Cheeses

Lancashire is blessed with brilliant cheese – some so good you can get a tune from it. Philippa James reports

Walking into Gill Hall’s kitchen was like coming home; a cup of tea, and a plate of biscuits were on the table. Gill, who did a Home Economics degree, took no time at all launching into how important food is on a working farm. Her mum, Jean, would bake every day, and Gill would come home to see 13 pies in a tall stack. ‘When Home Economics went in schools, it left a whole generation who can’t cook,’ she says.

I ask her about their Butler’s Lancashire cheese, the business she runs with husband, Colin. ‘The problem is that many people see mass produced cheese and think Lancashire crumbly IS Lancashire cheese… stark white, bird-seedy in texture, acidic, and with little flavour. This isn’t Lancashire cheese, at all!

‘Ours has a buttery crumb, we don’t use much starter culture so the curds remain loose, and we make it in small batches, with gentleness; above all else our cheese has to be a bit different to others around this area. If it tastes good, everything else is secondary.

‘And as for Lancashire tasty, this really is a bit of a secret. The majority of our tasty sales stay in the county; chefs outside the area don’t seem to know about it.’

Cheese making for the Butler family of Inglewhite started in 1932 with Gill’s grandparents, then to her mum, Jean, and husband, Tom, who died two years ago. The recipe is still the original one that Jean made by hand in the sink.

Jean is the matriarch, and it was from her that Gill learnt her cheese grading skills. Bill Yates became the company’s first cheese maker, and he and Gill slowly learned the art. Bill is so accomplished that he can play tunes on the cheeses, and detect, right at the beginning of the maturation process, exactly how they will deliver once ready. Tim Fisher began work at Butler’s 20 years ago, on the packing line, sticking on labels; it was a ‘temporary’ job!

So what of the future generation? Sons, Matthew, 23, and Daniel, 20, have created an online shop, ‘Butler’s Larder’ and 12-year-old Imogen
cheeses we have in friendregularly helps at her grandma’s farm, milking some of the the 700 goats.

Peter Elvin is marketing manager and helps with product development. Their TV advert reminded me of Tim Burton’s work. Peter said: ‘Butler’s wanted to get as far away as possible from the cheese and port, after dinner market; many customers are ‘buzzy’ music festival goers, and this prompted a campaign that was different and modern. It just happened that Louis Barabbas and his quirky bunch of musicians liked Blacksticks Blue and so they wrote a piece of music to accompany the video.’

And so to the Blacksticks Blue, itself; not just one variant, the delicious, creamy, blue cheese, but now there is Blacksticks Creamy, a soft, white version, Silk, a goats cheese with nutty overtones, and Velvet, made from local sheep’s milk.

Tim wandered back into the kitchen, bearing a wheel of a very interesting looking experimental batch of the original Blacksticks Blue, but a matured version. I’m not overly keen on some blue cheeses, but this was amazing and I declared that they may just have stumbled upon Lancashire’s equivalent of St Agur.

As I left, Gill says: ‘You know we couldn’t be further away from the fictitious world of our advert. We’re about real cheese, real local farmers, and real people.’ That says it all.

Latest from the Lancashire Life