15 Apr 2015

Paxton & Whitfield's cheese journal

I'm the sort of person who goes upstairs for something and can't remember what it was until I've walked back down again, so remembering all the different cheeses I've scoffed is a frankly impossible task.

I've got a database on my desktop, which I naturally forget to update, and I scribble things on bits of paper, which I immediately lose.

So I was intrigued to hear that those clever cheesemongers at Paxton & Whitfield had come up with a journal for jotting down cheesey thoughts and musings. Since getting one, I've found it much easier to keep track of what I've eaten, what it tastes like and what I'd drink it with it.

1 Apr 2015

Appleby's Cheshire: the fall & rise of British territorials

In the early 1980s Britain's specialist cheesemakers were hanging on by their fingernails as cheap, industrially produced supermarket products ruled the shelves. It's hard to believe now, but the future of traditionally made territorials from Red Leicester to Lancashire and even farmhouse cheddar were in the balance. 

Cheshire cheese was no different. Before the second world war there were dozens of small farmhouse producers making traditional raw milk, cloth-bound Cheshire, but numbers rapidly dwindled until in the early 80s there was just one left. Appleby's had been set up by Lucy Appleby (the famous Mrs Appleby) and her husband Lance in 1952 at Hawkstone Abbey Farm in North Shropshire and the couple were determined that proper Cheshire cheese shouldn't be lost to the nation. 

17 Mar 2015

Top five new wave cheeses for 2015

The British cheese scene is an exciting place at the moment with a new generation of producers coming up with some fantastic new cheeses, which often draw on classics such as Brie and Stilton but have their own unique characteristics. 

It really reminds me of what happened with craft beer a few years ago with people paying respect to traditional ways of doing things but also pushing boundaries and going in interesting new directions. Maybe we need a new name for the trend: New wave cheese? Craft cheese? Real cheese?  

Any road, here are my top five to try this year.

6 Mar 2015

Cheese of the Week: Anster

Named after the nearby fishing village of Anstruther in Fife (which locals call Anster), this relative newcomer is a Cheshire-style cheese made by the St.Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company with raw milk and traditional rennet. Low milk prices prompted Jane Stewart to start making the cheese six years ago, using raw milk from her husband Robert’s herd of Holstein Friesian cows.

It has a natural grey rind (no bandages or butter) and is matured for three months. Similar to Cheshire or Wensleydale, but with its own unique character, Anster has a crumbly, open texture and a fresh, milky flavour with lemony notes. I also detected a satisfying savoury finish to the cheese that was mushroomy and almost meaty (I suspect that came from the rind.)

3 Mar 2015

Top five crazy Continentals

Cheddar and Camemebert are all well and good, but sometimes only a cheese matured in a sheep's stomach will do (in Bosnia anyway). Here are my top five weird and wonderful European cheeses.

Made only during the summer in small stone refuges (called calécc) by herdsmen high up in the Alpine mountains of Lombardy, Bitto can be aged for longer than any other cheese. Some wheels are left to mature for 10 years, developing intense, nutty flavours and a crumbly texture. It's made with cow's milk and around 10-20% goat's milk, which some say is the secret to Bitto's amazing ageing abilities. The cheese is in short supply with only a handful of producers still making it in the traditional way.