Countdown to Melton’s sixth Artisan Cheese Fair which includes new cheese awards competition this year

Exhibitors at next month's Artisan Cheese Fair in Melton will include Hamm Tun Fine Foods whose Cobblers Nibble is a multi award-winning hard English cheese made from pasteurised cows milk from a Northamptonshire Fresian herd EMN-160303-142602001

Exhibitors at next month's Artisan Cheese Fair in Melton will include Hamm Tun Fine Foods whose Cobblers Nibble is a multi award-winning hard English cheese made from pasteurised cows milk from a Northamptonshire Fresian herd EMN-160303-142602001

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Nearly 60 local and national cheesemakers have now signed up to showcase over 300 of the UK’s best artisan cheeses at next month’s Artisan Cheese Fair in Melton.

The event - the UK’s largest dedicated cheese fair - will return for its sixth year on April 30 and May 1, from 10am to 4pm, at the Cattle Market on Scalford Road. Entrance is £3, children free.

Last year over 8,000 cheese-lovers visited the Artisan Cheese Fair and visitors to this year’s event will have the opportunity to taste and buy some of the UK’s rarest artisan cheeses including cow, goat and sheep milk cheeses.

Visitors will also be able to learn about cheese in the daily programme of talks, demonstrations and tastings given by industry experts, as well as enjoying other local produce including pies, wine, cakes, cider, champagne and Melton Mowbray’s famous Pork Pies. The theatre programme will include a ‘make your own cheese’ session and ‘cooking with cheese’ demonstration.

Next month’s event also features a new awards competition for cheesemakers, recognising the craft and skill of the small artisan cheesemaker.

The awards are open to any cheesemaker in the British Isles producing less than 250 tonnes of cheese a year. All cheeses entered must be commercially available.

Matthew O’Callaghan, chairman of the Melton Mowbray Food Partnership and organiser of the Artisan Cheese Fair,

said: “The awards are a natural extension of the fair. It means that small artisan producers can compete on a level playing field without the dominance of the large commercial producers which occurs in some of the cheese awards.”

The classes for the first year of the awards are: soft, semi-soft, hard, blue, best British territorial cheese (will include: Caerphilly, Cheddar, Cheshire, Derby, Dunlop, Gloucester, Lancashire, Red Leicester, Stilton, Wensleydale), best protected food name cheese (will include Beacon Fell Lancashire, Dorset Blue, Dovedale, Exmoor Blue, Orkney Cheddar, Single Gloucester, Staffordshire, Stilton, Swaledale, West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, Yorkshire Wensleydale) and best cheese recently launched on the market.

First prize for the ‘Supreme Champion’ - the best cheese at the awards - will be a trophy (sponsored by A la Carte Packaging Solutions) and cheque for £1,000.

To encourage small producers a further prize of £500 will be awarded to the best cheesemaker producing less than 50 tonnes a year.

Besides the award winners for each class, awards will be given to the best goat’s cheese and the best ewe’s cheese. Gold, silver and bronze awards in each class will also be awarded.

The best artisan cheese ‘the people’s favourite’ as judged by the public during the Artisan Cheese Fair will be announced after the event.

Judging for the awards will take place on Friday, April 29, with the awards being distributed at the cheesemakers’ supper on Saturday, April 30.

Organisers of the Artisan Cheese Fair are looking for cheese-loving volunteers to help run the event. The volunteers would help with exhibitors setting up and supporting them during the event as well as looking after the around 10,000 visitors that are expected over the weekend of the fair. For more information call Matthew O’Callaghan on 07894 229499 or email matthewocall@gmail.com

Local businesses that would like to sponsor any of the cheese awards are also urged to get in touch with Mr O’Callaghan.

For more information about the Artisan Cheese Fair, including how to enter the cheese awards and the rules of the competition, visit www.artisancheesefair.co.uk

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