Duckett, Mary (b.1915)

A cheese school operated from Mary Duckett’s parents home in Mark during the 1920s.  A tutor from Cannington Agricultural College visited for a week to show students how to make Cheddar and Caerphilly.  Mary Duckett’s father was a Caerphilly cheese dealer at Highbridge Market. Orders would be sent from Wales and elsewhere, via train, to Highbidge Station, Mr Duckett would then buy cheeses at market, pack them in wooden crates and send them off by train.


Caerphilly cheese is traditionally associated with Wales; it was popular with Welsh miners because of its high salt content.

Mary Duckett making Caerphilly cheese, Heath House, Wedmore. Mary Duckett making Caerphilly cheese, Heath House, Wedmore.
Sound File
Listen to Mary Duckett - 2.10MB Duration 4:34 min.

AH: 21st January 1987 Ann Heeley and Doreen McDowell talking to Mrs. Duckett of Walnut Tree Farm, Wedmore, about Caerphilly cheesemaking.  Can you tell me Mrs Duckett how you do make Caerphilly cheese?


MD: Well we start by adding the starter in the morning and then when the morning's milk comes in we warm it up, add the rennet, and then the whole forms a junket and we cut it; and from then on you have to gradually scald it, heat it up, stirring all the time to firm it up until it becomes the curds and whey.


When the acidity is right, which it should be about one eight to one nine, you pitch it for about five to ten minutes and then draw the whey off the top and let the curds pitch at the bottom.


And the whey is drawn off; over, over it goes over the separator and is separated into the thick cream, is then put over steam and boiled for several hours until it becomes clotted, then cooled and sold off as clotted cream.


But the cheese, the curd, when it's firm it, you start to cut it with the long knives and cut it into cones first of all and then the cones are cut up into lengths and piled at the back and then cut again into one inch cubes.  Then is drained further and then salt is added and  put it into the moulds, which at the moment we're doing in two pound, four pounds and eight pound cheese blocks.


AH: Is this because you've got the market for those sizes of cheese, is this to determine what size of moulds you use?


MD: Yes, we do make pound ones occasionally for Christmas trade, but they're a bit of a nuisance.


AH: They are so fiddly I imagine.


MD: Yes very, they are more time consuming than the larger ones really.  We do them for special orders.


AH: And you then put them into the presses?


MD: Yes.


AH: Can you tell me about how long they're in the press?


MD: Well, they go as quickly as you can when you cut it, you get it away not for the curd to get chilled.  You want to them into the presses as soon as possible.  Then you take them out and turn them top to bottom once and put them back again and then you take them out and rub them in salt and bring the cloths out of water and put them in until the morning.


AH: So when you're rubbing them in salt you've taken them out of the cloth?


MD: Yes, you have taken them out of the cloths, wring the cloths out in water, warm water.


AH: Rub the salt over the cheese?


MD: We have actually a old bab's bath which we rub them in.  You can see them do it if you want to?


AH: And then we put them back into the clothes?


MD: Into the presses.


AH: With the cloth on?


MD: Yes with the cloth on and they stay there until the morning.  In the summertime you've got to be careful not to put too much pressure on them or the cloths will stick to the cheese.  We have had to take them out turn them another time in very hot weather and wring the cloths out in the salt water.


AH: When you take them out of the press tomorrow morning, what do you do with them then?


MD: They go straight into the brine and stay in there for twenty-four hours then they come out on the shelves and are ready to be sold then.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in January 1987. Photograph ©Ann Heeley Collection. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.