Cheese has been made by the Keens at Moorhayes Farm in Wincanton, Somerset since Great Aunt Jane made her first cheese in 1899. Brothers, Stephen and George Keen, now run the family business, and are ably assisted by their sons. Nick runs the dairy herd and arable side of the business and James is the cheese-maker.
Keen’s Cheddar is made in the traditional way, using unpasteurised milk from their own herd of 250 Friesians to a recipe that has been passed down through the generations. One of the secrets of their success has been in keeping the business small. They employ just two employees besides the family. The cloth-bound cheeses mature for over 12 months in the farm store. They are regularly turned, cleaned and sampled to ensure that each cheese gains the characteristic moist texture, tangy bite and full-bodied flavour.
The Keens are one of the last three families, along with Jamie Montgomery and the Calvers at Westcombe, to make traditional Artisan Somerset Cheddar. The criteria for this is much stricter than that for West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, and includes using raw milk from their own herd, pint starters rather than the more widely used powdered versions, and animal rennet. The cheese must never be made in a block form, and must be cloth-bound before being matured for at least one year.
The Keens are rightly proud of their cheese, and of their part in maintaining the quality and reputation of this treasured but much copied English classic.