Rodda’s is renowned worldwide for the production of Cornwall’s most famous delicacy, clotted cream, and whether the outlet is a corner shop, a country hotel, a supermarket chain or an international airline, Rodda’s customers know they can depend on total freshness and choice every time.
The word ‘clotted’ comes from ‘clout’, which means a patch and refers to the way the thick crust is formed on top of the cream as it is cooked. It is said that clotted cream is made nowhere in the world but in Cornwall, Devon and Phoenicia (modern-day Lebanon). The art of making the Cream of Cornwall was possibly exchanged with the Phoenicians when they came to Britain to trade for tin about 500 BC.
Cornish clotted cream is famous for its distinctive golden crust, thick consistency and smooth texture. After being separated from the milk, high-fat cream is subjected to prolonged heat-treatment (known as ‘cooking’ or ‘scalding’), then allowed to cool. It’s this process that ‘clots’ the cream. Cornish clotted cream has since 1998 been protected under EU food law; it cannot be produced by imitators outside its region of origin.
“It took four years to get this protection, but now it must be made in Cornwall to be called ‘Cornish’. The uniqueness of Cornish clotted cream is down to the relatively high-fat milk produced by the Jersey and Guernsey cows we have in Cornwall, and also to the type of soil and pasture in the county.”
Rodda’s Creamery History
(Article taken from Waitrose magazine: August 2001)
One day in 1931, 18-year-old Cornishman Willie Rodda boarded a London-bound train; in his pocket was a jam jar filled with clotted cream. “Hand it over to a man who will meet you at Paddington Station”, were the instructions from his father. “He is an egg dealer, and he’ll try to find us a buyer up there.”
Willie did his duty – as did the middleman, for a few days later a letter arrived at the Rodda’s family farm near Redruth: “We have sampled the cream you sent us and we find it very rich and quite good”, pronounced the giant Express Dairy Company. “Would you be kind enough to let us have a firm quotation from you for various quantities?”
The Rodda’s had been making clotted cream in their back kitchen, and selling it locally, since 1890 – but this was the first big step in a success story that continues to this day. Seventy years on, the clotted cream produced by AE Rodda & Son is now sold nationwide and even exported. Today, you’ll find it in restaurants and pubs; on trains and in service stations; in supermarkets and shops. You are likely to find it accompanying your strawberries at the great events of the English Season: Royal Ascot, Wimbledon, the Lord’s test, and the Henley Regatta.
You are also likely to be offered Rodda’s clotted cream by your flight cabin crew: “Probably 90 per cent of the airlines who fly out of Heathrow use it”, says Alfred Rodda, Willie’s 59-year-old son. A few years ago, Alfred received a letter from a Cornish-born businessman who had been delighted to be served Rodda’s clotted cream with his scones as he crossed Alaska with Japan Airlines.
The Roddas’ 75-acre farm is at the village of Scorrier, a couple of miles outside Redruth. This was once the centre of the richest metal-mining area in the uk; in the mid-19th century, the mines around Redruth provided two-thirds of the world’s copper.
The business is now headed by five partners: Eric Rodda is, at 87, the elder statesman and still plays an active role; then there are his nephews, Alfred and his 52-year-old brother Philip; and Eric’s sons-in-law, John Pengelly and Roger Morriss. Alfred’s sons Nick, 34, and Andrew, 30, also work for the firm.
“There can be a problem with a family partnership,” Alfred says. “You have to be careful that people are not involved just because of who they are, but because they can do the job.” No such danger in Alfred’s case: he recalls being involved in boyhood. “As children, we would put rubber rings on the lids of the jars,” he says. “Back then, the jars were packed in orange crates that we got from the shops in Redruth. One of my jobs on Saturdays was to straighten the nails so the boxes could be used again.”
But it is a measure of the family’s ability to move with the times that they have expanded a business selling a product that is seen not only as a luxury but as a luxury that might have fewer friends in health-conscious times. In fact, while production of cream of all types (single, double, sour) has been constant since 1985, Rodda’s production in that period has more than doubled.
They attribute this feat not too slick marketing (“We never advertise”, insists Alfred), but to innovation. A few years before Willie’s trip to Paddington, some family friends on a visit from London had wanted to take some clotted cream home with them; but wouldn’t the stuff go off? Willie’s mother Fanny put her mind to the poser and discovered that, if the jars of cream were sterilised, they could be preserved, like jam, for up to three months.
Later, in the Sixties, the family patented a process for cooking the cream in a hot-air oven, rather than the traditional scalding over water. Their cream was also now mostly cooked in the container in which it was to be sold. Alfred says: “These breakthroughs not only cut costs but improved in the product’s shelf life.”
The creamery now employs 80 people and produces 10 tonnes of clotted cream a day. All milk used is from local farms (the Rodda’s no longer keep cattle), and the milk residue, more than 90 per cent of the volume after the cream has been separated, is sold for skimmed milk powder. Clotted cream for export is frozen.
You will deduce from this that anyone turning up at Rodda’s expecting to see rosy-cheeked dairymaids joshing with straw-chewing swains will be in for a disappointment. The white-coated staff look like medical interns, and everything in the creamery is fully automated (much of the machinery, because it is unique to the family’s production process, is made to their own specifications).
And, should you happen to run into Eric Rodda, you will take encouragement from the following. To be genuine, clotted cream must contain a minimum of 55 per cent butterfat; at Rodda’s, they insist on 61 to 64 per cent. Eric Rodda has been eating the stuff all his life – and a trimmer 87-year-old you will not find.
A.E Rodda & Son Limited
The Creamery Scorrier, Redruth, Cornwall TR16 5BU
t: +44(0)1209 823300