South Island Saxelby Stilton

This is CurdNerd‘s blog post on South Island Saxelby Stilton shared here with permission of CurdNerd.

I happened across a tale of a cheese once made in Invercargill, New Zealand. It was enjoyed throughout New Zealand, and eventually exported to Australia due to its ‘notable quality and superior flavour’. It is claimed to be the first Stilton manufactured commercially in the Southern Hemisphere. I was intrigued.

John and Betsy Saxelby[1] and their six children arrived in New Zealand from Kings Norton, near Birmingham, early in the 1880s. John a farmer, and Betsy a classified maker of cottage cheeses, set to making Stilton in their cheese factory at Roslyn Bush, Invercargill. Farmers were paid 3&½ d per gallon for their raw shorthorn milk[2], a much better price than butter. As a result, a Stilton operation was suggested for trial in Taranaki.

Milk was left to acidify in it’s own time, the addition of whey starter was used by some if acidification of make moving too slowly.

Stilton cheese is principally made in small dairies of from six to ten cows. The milk is “run” at a low temperature – from 74 to 78 Fahr.: the application of hot water or steam is dispensed with. The curds and whey are first dropped into a strainer, and the whey is drawn off until the curd is formed into a cake. This is often allowed to remain for twenty-four hours, then broken small, and salted during the process of being placed in a mould. It continues in the mould until it is firm enough to stand – about eight or ten days – being turned every day. It is then removed from the mould, and the outside is scraped to fill up the cavities and render it smooth. A piece of cheese-cloth is pinned round the cheese, and it is removed into a temperature of not less than 70 Fahr. No external pressure is used for Stilton cheese. In about five or six months the blue veins begin to appear, and the prime Stilton is ready for market.

taken from ‘The Manufacture of Cheese, Butter and Bacon in New Zealand’ 1883

Whether Saxelby Stilton was made in the same way I’m yet to find out, Betsy Saxelby’s cheesemaking records are said to be knocking about somewhere in an Invercargill archive.

The cheese won many certificates, medals and trophies, often due to being the only cheese entered in it class. It was also proclaimed that Saxelby’s Stilton was ‘better stilton cheese than was being made in England’. I’m not looking for another stilton war, but maybe it’s time for a renaissance of good old colonial fare?[3]

[1] *Saxelby (or Saxelbye) is a small village in the district of Melton in Leicestershire, England – Stilton country.

[2] Pasteurisation was introduced on a wide scale in New Zealand about 1906, and shorthorns were the first dairy cattle to enter the country.

[3] @CurdNerd & his wife @CustardSquare arrived in England from Browns Bay Auckland in 2002. There they were taught to make Childwickbury from esteemed cheesemaker Elizabeth Harris of St Albans. @CurdNerd & @CustardSquare have recently returned to New Zealand to make cheese.



Biddy’s Cwmglyn Cheese Blog 3.

This morning when I opened my emails I found the following one from MPI. Lots of sites on it to give my computer constipation.

Hi Biddy

Thank you for your inquiry. As you are aware, MPI has a Raw Milk Products Notice and associated Code of Practice (COP). The Notice can be found at the link below: The Notice sets out the requirements a farm dairy and cheese processor has to meet.  The Notice has been in place since 2009 and the requirements have not changed.

In terms of the COP, this is one of the key ways in which you can demonstrate you meet the requirements of the Notice. An RMP amendment that follows the provisions in the COP can expect to move through evaluation and registration unimpeded. The  COP is not the only way you can meet the notice, but alternative methods would need to demonstrate that the requirements of the notice are met. The link to the COP is:  Dairy – Additional Measures for Raw Milk Products – Code of Practice

If you require help in updating your processes to include the requirements for raw milk products, then you could engage a consultant. A list of consultants is available on the MPI website at the following link:

Should you wish to proceed with manufacturing raw milk cheese for sale, then you will need to have your programme evaluated and apply for a significant amendment to your current RMP, enabling raw milk cheese to be added to the scope of your RMP. MPI’s approvals team are able to assist you through this process. You can contact the approvals team at

I trust the above information answers your questions.  We look forward to receiving your application in due course, and working with you into the future.





Natalie Collins |  Manager Dairy Products
Animal and Animal Products Directorate | Regulation and Assurance Branch
Ministry for Primary Industries – Manatū Ahu Matua | Pastoral House 25 The Terrace | PO Box 2526 | Wellington | New Zealand
Telephone: 64-4-894 2537 | Facsimile: 64-4-894 2643| Mobile: 64-(0)29-894 2537| Web:

As it is rather late in the day at this point (old ladies are not supposed to look at computer screens before retiring for the night as this induces insomnia) – on the other hand my friend Anna reckons that actually reading this sort of stuff, actually sends you to sleep…

I shall post my further actions in response to Natalie Collins in due course.

Meantime here is a picture of my cow Holly.





Biddy’s Cwmglyn Cheese blog 2

If anybody reads this, I do hope they’ll forgive any computer lapses on my part. I’m not particularly computer literate and I’ve still to find out how to add pictures and paste documents received from MPI and I do rather suffer from verbal diarrhoea at times…

Money to pay for the building of my little milking parlour and cheeseroom came from my retirement nest egg. The local Tararua District Council Environmental Health Officer came and made suggestions on how I should build the latter to make it suitable for producing food in and up to the standard of a commercial kitchen. He issued me with a licence that cost $100.00 a year and inspected the premises annually. We built both buildings against the side of Colin’s large Model Railway shed, dairy-farming neighbours helped with the concreting and gave good advice on the arrangement of the milking parlour.

Colin used to be the data administrator for TranzRail, but in 2003 they moved their head office from Wellington to Auckland and they wanted to ship Colin up there as well – computer nerds who actually know how railways work are fairly rare, but he and I knew we wouldn’t survive in a city environment after Eketahuna, so he took redundancy and we opened his vast model railway layout to the public in January 2004 instead. I set up a cheese counter at the entrance. Cheese & model railways would seem to be an unlikely partnership, but it works for us.

In 2009, TVNZ contacted us as the producers of the long running programme “Country Calendar” wanted to feature our operations. Filming took place over 4 days just before Easter. My son Peter brought out all the grandchildren, both his and his siblings so they could be part of the action as Colin has set up various layouts with buttons to press so visitors can drive trains themselves. The milking was filmed and a cheesemaking sequence and the programme went out in July 2009. The programme finished at 7.30 PM on a Saturday night and by 7.31 I had my first email from the then New Zealand Food Safety Authority pointing out that I didn’t have a Risk Management Programme for either my cheese making or the farm operation. “But I have a licence from our local EHO” I squawked, “Not worth the paper it’s written on” they replied. “Dairy products are Dangerous”. Three inspectors arrived to check me out and, although they said my little cheese room was the cleanest they’d ever seen, as I didn’t have the right paperwork, I’d obviously be a grave danger to the cheese eating public of NZ. They gave me 2 months grace to get the paperwork sorted out. My $100.00 licence fee shot up to $5,500.00!

The Food Safety officials were only doing their job and the regulations were written assuming (as Dairy Products are one of the main exports of NZ) that you were either a large cheese factory producing tons of the stuff or an equally large farm with hundreds of cows producing vast quantities of milk. I reckoned the politicians needed to re-write the regulations to recognise small production Artisan Cheesemakers,  Luckily the NZ parliamentary Primary Products Select Committee were taking submissions at the time and I sent one in with pictures of my lovely cows (I’d collected a few more since Gwendolyn). I asked to speak to the committee and they graciously invited me to speak to them. As a result of my submission, the Food Safety Authority (which has since morphed into MPI) was asked to produce a template for people like me. It was decided that provided you had six or less cows, 10 buffalo or 24 sheep or 24 goats and your total weekly milk volume was less than 1000 litres per week, and you only made hard aged cheese from Heat treated milk, which had to conform to less than 39% moisture, have a Salt-in-moisture content of not less than 4%, and a pH of 5.6 or less and the entire process from adding the commercially produced cheese culture in the milk to draining the whey did not exceed 5 and a half hours you could make cheese to sell. Your processes still had to be audited by a recognised agency, so the process still cost in excess of $5,500.00, so I hadn’t achieved anything much with my parliamentary squawking……

I haven’t yet quite worked out to put pictures on this site, but readers can go to our website or and find pictures of the cows and my entire cheesemaking process. What follows in italics is the text of my opening salvo in my raw cheese campaign to MPI

Good afternoon Sheryl Tuck & Tony Rumney,
I am enquiring about the protocol required for raw hard cheese making and I trust it has been amended since the first MPI one written in 2009 to reflect recent relevant research into raw cheese production, carried out in Europe. As you may know, from the presumably quite extensive file on me held by MPI, I first made an application for this around 2009. I gave up when it became apparent that the restrictions you had placed around this made it quite economically unfeasible.
The reason I am again pursuing this, is that as I am 74 next month, I am finding it increasingly difficult to lift large milk pans of up to 20 litres in and out of larger pans of boiling water & thence to ice cold water while thermising the milk prior to cheesemaking. I can see workplace Health & Safety law getting involved. We milk our own cows (only 3 in lactation at the moment, from a total of 5) and meticulously clean the udders and do a RMT daily on every cow. Consequently mastitis is not a problem. If we do have a test result that shows abnormal SCC, we plug that particular cup on the cluster and I hand milk the quarter and discard the milk. Dodgy or so-so milk never enters the cheese vat. The cows are milked individually and the milk is collected in a test bucket located in the cheeseroom. The milk travels no more that 5 metres through stainless steel tube. Over the last 12 years I have made 2,462 batches of cheese & only ever had one ‘blown’ cheese, that that was in the early days when I was using a small 7 litre batch pasteuriser, & some of the water from the exterior jacket contaminated the curd. My batch sizes are usually restricted to one or two cheeses, and you can imagine the cheese would be quite unsalable given the number of tests required at the moment to check whether it is safe to eat.
During 2013 when I was working with MPI developing the template for small holder farm cheese, some 157 cheeses were tested (every single cheese made during the year) NONE were ever found to have any pathogens, although some of the composition parameters were not always met. These truckles included a number of Raw Cheeses made for our own consumption. My last AsureQuality Audit (in January by Jude Dooley) was deemed to be, in her words, “a very good audit”.
Since 2012-13 there has never been a problem with composition results with the mandatory tests. My thermised cheese is only sold from the farm gate or high end restaurants and cheesemongers, and because of the very small amount of cheese made, the Risk factor is very low. I intend to work with the technical committee of the UK SCA (of which I am a member & have been for a number of years) and I also want to record the entire accreditation process with a blog I am setting up as there seems to be considerable interest in the bureaucracy involved with very small production artisan cheesemakers such as myself. My cheese won a silver award at the 2013 World Cheese Awards held in the UK and a Super Gold Award at the 2014-15 World Cheese Awards – there were some 2700 entries from 33 countries and in the latter event my cheese was one of the top 62. This would seem to indicate that I now know how to make good cheese.
One of the difficulties I have is that Eketahuna is fairly isolated as far as courier traffic is concerned & it is impossible for me to meet the testing delivery standards required by the 2009 protocol, with the MPI recognised laboratories all based in Auckland. Given that the only milk used for our cheese is produced on the farm, & is tested daily and I ONLY make hard cheese which is an intrinsically safe ready-to-eat product, I hope that some flexibility will be allowed in the MPI testing regime and protocol developed for Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese.
With all good wishes,
Biddy Fraser-Davies,
Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese
Unique MPI ID Cwmglyn1  242 


This is the end of the background section -I will keep you posted on developments.


Biddy’s Cwmglyn Cheese Blog

This is my first cheese blog post which I have created to record my next bureaucratic cheese hurdle with the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

First, a bit of background for those who know nothing about the various regulatory cheese battles I’ve been engaged in over the last 7 years. I am a post-menopausal cheesemaker living in the country on a small block of 4.4ha South of Eketahuna in the Tararua District of New Zealand. My husband, Colin, and I moved here some 20 years ago for a bit of peace & quiet. We are surrounded by Dairy farms which is nice as I’ve had a thing about cows since I was about 5 years old and succeeded in taming a number of them by feeding windfall apples over the fence while staying with my grandparents who lived in Hailsham, Sussex in England. Later, at 11, I learnt how to milk them by hand when I stayed on a school friend’s farm in Tenterden, Kent. The farm was several hundred years old and they had no power and all the cows were hand milked. Anybody staying there had to help milk the cows. If you’d never milked a cow before, the only concession made was they gave you a quiet one! I vividly remember the sense of history as I sat on a three-legged stool and watched the milk froth up as it hit the white enamelled milking pail, my head pressed against the cow’s flank as she munched the hay in the manger, just as cows had done in the same place for over 300 years.

Not long after we moved to Cwmglyn Farm in 1995, one of the neighbours gave me a late born Jersey heifer calf – he’d weaned all his other calves & the bobby truck had stopped coming and they thought I’d make a good job of rearing her. We called her Gwendolyn. She was much indulged. We inseminated her when she was 3 years old and I realised I had nine months to build a milking parlour. It occurred to me that she might well swamp me with milk so I built a cheese making room as well, as Fonterra do not pick up from a single cow. Thus I found my dairy career started the year I was 60!

Fortunately there are quite a lot of books written on cheesemaking. The first year was interesting. Some of my cheese was good, some ho-hum. We gave the hohum ones to the chickens and the egg production that first year was phenomenal.