From prowling the wards of Wetherfield General to stirring his award-winning curds and way, Sean Wilson’s swapped the cobbles for the crumbly, award-winning range of real Lancashire cheeses.
So, was Coronation Street always just a cheese warm up career move?
Not at all. I loved Corry-orry. But a new producer came in, and made it quite clear he didn’t love me. That’s fine. You either get on or you don’t. We didn’t. So, after 21 good years, I left. No point being somewhere you’re really not wanted.
So why the move to food?
I had a friend, Nigel Haworth at Northcote. “You keep telling me you can cook, so come to our kitchen, you’ll soon find out if you can!” he said. And I like a challenge. So Lisa, there, really put me through my paces. But, really, it was always about the cheese!
What was the next step for you?
I was introduced to legendary, sadly now departed, Lancashire cheesemaker Bob Kitching, who founded Leagram Organic Dairy in Chipping. He was a real inspiration, and kept flying the flag for local cheeses when it was deeply unfashionable to do so.
What is it about cheese that fired you up?
I’m fascinated by the science of it all. How it’s about a simple product – milk, and working out how to save it, by transforming it into a completely different state of matter. I love that it comes from a basic ingredient and turns into some of the finest stuff a human can craft. It’s similar to how grapes become wine. And you’re not going to meet any Lancashire winemakers, so it had to be cheese.
What was the first cheese you made?
Bob taught me how to make a lovely Lancashire crumby. I entered a competition, and I only bloody won. I was 40. And then I knew, this is how I want to spend the rest of my life. I had two big Ikea pans, Bob at the end of the phone, copious notes everywhere. I don’t think I’d ever been happier. The Gold Medal just topped it off.
Are you something of a cheese evangelist?
You try as much as you can. The biggest seller will always be a block of supermarket Cheddar. I doubt 99 per cent of people have even tasted a good Cheddar, like Montgomery. There are 700 named varieties of British cheeses, but really – how many have you tasted?
I made a promise to Bob that I’d help spread the word. Unlike other cheeses, Lancaster cheese hasn’t broken through the county boundaries. You can buy Wensleydale in Cornwall, and Red Leicester anywhere. We need to show Britain what we’re made of.
What’s so good about it?
We’re the only country that uses a multi day curd, yesterday’s curd left to toughen up overnight on the draining table, and it’s blended with this morning’s curd, which is so runny it slips through your fingers. The result is a uniquely creamy flavour and crumbly texture.
How do you have it?
I love making a really nice cheese board, I mix our blue cheese with cream and honey, and serve with fruits and nuts and crumbs. But look out for our brie/camembert style, made with the richer Jersey milk, Soft Mick, which turns really custardy after a few weeks. It’s my current favourite.
The Saddleworth Cheese Company has won a Gold Medal for Muldoons Picnic, its crumbly Lancashire, and awards for its aged and creamier How’s Yer Father, a full flavoured vintage, Mouth Almighty, and a nuttily creamy blue-veined cheese, Smelly Ha’peth. Look for them in delis, farm shops and Tesco Express stores across the region.