There was a time, not all that long ago when I used to sell cheese. Yes, that’s right I would spend my working day at a local deli slicing to order though huge pieces of the stuff, wether it be cows-milk, goats-milk or even sheeps-milk. I would frequently leave work smelling as one pasteurised.
One of the particular characteristics of the collection of cheeses that we had in store was that it predominantly featured artisan, British made cheese as opposed to relying on the classic french options to get customers through the door. The selection of British cheeses available these days is staggering, only our national beer-makers can match then in ingenuity, eccentric names and variety of flavour.
I have selected ten small batch cheeses which I feel really showcase the range of skills, textures and tastes available in the UK. In addition to this I have also provided you with specially selected accompaniments and a complementing beer (the best companion to British cheese) to really get the most out of your new and enlightened cheeseboard.
I have provided online sources for our recommended cheeses but I would really advise visiting one of the UK’s excellent artisan cheesemongers. There’s something about entering a roomful of cheeses, the smell yes but also a sense of excitement and possibilities. I can only recommend those of whom I have previously visited or dealt with, who are the following:
– If you have a recommendation for your fellow Holborn readers (national or international) please get in touch.
All that is left is to invite a dozen friends round. Get each person to bring one piece cheese and some matching beers and let the fromage-driven conversation roll away into the night. Perfect.
(Please note that all cheeses are best served at room temperature).
We present for your delectation:
I) Stichelton, £4.40 for 200g, stichelton.co.uk
A very popular, award-winning blue cheese produced on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire. Made from unpasteurised organic cow’s milk and traditional animal rennet, it tastes cool and creamy with a slight acidic warmth coming through from the blue mould. It is also fiercely addictive. It’s especially good melted over walnuts and cranberries.
II) Keen’s cheddar, £6.50 for 250g, finecheese.co.uk
Made from unpasteurised milk from the farm’s own cows, this cheddar is pressed and bathed for three days and matured for up to a year. Traditional cheese-making at its best.
III) Innes Log, £9 for approximately 220g, nealsyarddairy.co.uk
Soft, white, creamy and light, with a subtle nuttiness, this is simply one of the best goat’s cheeses you will find. Produced at the Innes farm in Staffordshire, the handmade cheese has won praise from foodies and chefs alike.
IV) Wigmore, £33 for 700g, nealsyarddairy.co.uk
Named after the cheesemakers themselves, this soft, brie-style cheese is smooth as a kiss and very subtle. Made with unpasteurised ewes’ milk and perfectly matured for six weeks, it is the winner of more than a dozen awards.
V) Ardrahan, £16 per kg, waitrose.com
A rich, soft Irish cheese with a strong, almost meaty flavour. Ardrahan has a buttery textured honey-coloured centre with a complex delicate flavour. It is made with a washed rind (meaning quite literally that the cheese has been washed in a special brine) which grows over time into a bright golden colour, it also keeps the inside of the cheese moist and creamy.
VI) Ticklemore, £6.06 for 1/8th Cheese, thecheeseshed.com
Made at Sharpham’s Dairy in Devonshire, Ticklemore is a cool, crumbly goats’ milk cheese that melts in the mouth much like ice cream. It has a mellow, fresh and subtle citric flavour.
VII) Lincolnshire Poacher £5.95 for 250g, pongcheese.co.uk
Lincolnshire Poacher is made with great care by Simon and Tim Jones, It is a tangy, hard crystalline cheese made on the eastern edge of the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds. Poacher has an earthy and powerful taste that is nuttier than a mature cheddar with a long, lasting almost alpine flavour.
VIII) Colsten Bassett Stilton, £5.95 for 250g, finecheese.co.uk
Made by a dairy that has only once stopped producing stilton – during the minor incovience that was The Second World War (production was briefly switched to cheddar). This is a fine stilton that has all the features you would want: rich,creamy with a deep and tantalising flavour.
IX) Cornish Yarg, £17.95 for a 900g truckle, lynherdairies.co.uk
Named after the couple who first handmade this Cornish cheese in the 1970s (it is their surname, Gray, spelt backwards), this is a beautiful example of British artisan cheese. Wrapped in either nettle or wild garlic leaves, the hard, tangy-tasting cheese has been the recipient of a shelf-full of awards.
X) Ogleshield, £5.35 for £250g, thecheeseshed.com
Made one fateful night by Jamie Montgomery (who also make Montgomery’s Chedder) in Cadbury, Somerset. Ogleshield has a rich, long lasting flavour that is ripe, fruity and almost beer-like in itself with a soft but firm texture. It is a great melting cheese as it holds shape. Hawksmoor of London use it to melt over their burgers and Hot Dogs