Don’t buy into the Brexit cheese hysteria – homegrown versions of the Euro classics are taking the cheese world by storm
Unrivalled Roquefort, moreish Manchego, grand Gruyère – the continent does cheese fabulously well. Of course, with Brexit a-coming, terms of domestic engagement with foreign curds are about to change and it’s likely to be in a negative way for British Euro-turophiles.
The internet lit up with the news of this Cheesemageddon: costs will soar – some importers were already hiking prices 15 per cent in anticipation – and shortages loom, especially in the cheddar sector, which – we learned with shock – is mostly imported from Ireland.
Fortunately, our spies have been abroad. Since the late 1970s, when new life was breathed into the now flourishing British artisan cheese sector, our cheesemakers have been travelling the continent, acquiring the techniques of our European cousins. British equivalents of continental classics have sprung up, reminiscent of the greats, but also uniquely tied, through climate and pasture, to domestic terroir.
So save the continentals for the continent, for picnics with Euro-bought baguettes, and tune your taste buds to the new reality. Here’s a selection of cheeses that, if not a straight swap, should at least become an important addition to your cheese library.
A former Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards, Tunworth is a British Camembert. Produced by Stacey Hedges and Charlotte Spruce of Hampshire Cheeses, the creamy textured cheese, with its sweet, nutty flavour, offers classic Camembert but with greater complexity. Hampshire Cheeses also produces Winslade, a kind of Camembert/Vacherin cross, for those after something a little more rich and uncomplicated.
£8.25 for 250g, thecourtyarddairy.co.uk
Supporting the evidence that complex feelings toward the EU have always run deep, Chevington cheese – a kind of hard English brie – was conceived in 1895 by an English farmer angry at the incursion of French cheese imports and a government apparently uncaring of his plight. The mould-ripened Chevington produced today by the Northumberland Cheese Company offers a creamy lemon flavour with subtle hints of earth.
£6.50 for 300g, northumberlandcheese.co.uk
Last year’s World Cheese Champion, pasteurised Cornish Kern is a Gouda-style cheese wrapped in black wax and aged for 16 months. The result is a rich, smooth, savoury treat with hints of caramel. Vegetarian-friendly Kern (Cornish for ‘round’) pairs beautifully with port, plums and figs on a cheeseboard, or is delicious in a sourdough sandwich.
£7.40 for 215g, thecheeseshed.com
Created by Jamie Montgomery (of Montgomery Cheddar renown), the brine-washed Ogleshield is ideal for recipes where you’d usually use raclette or a similar melting cheese such as Comté. Made from unpasteurised Jersey Cow’s milk that gives the paste a warm, buttercup colour, Ogleshield has a gentle, fruity flavour, accompanied by a sweet, milky aroma.
£7.60 for 294g, nealsyarddairy.co.uk
Pioneering English cheesemaker Mary Holbrook had her first taste of cheese produced with cardoon rennet in Portugal in the early 90s, where the plant is commonly used in cheesemaking. She found the vegetal flavour it imparts so intriguing that she took some samples home to experiment with on her Somerset farm. The result is vegetarian-friendly Cardo, a raw Saanen goat’s milk cheese with a pinkish rind and a complex floral flavour.
A long overdue Supreme Champion at last year’s Artisan Cheese Awards, sheep’s milk Berkswell has been a staple on the cheeseboards of the cognoscenti for more than 30 years. Made at Ram Hall Farm in Coventry, its grainy texture has a light nuttiness reminiscent of a young Manchego. As it ages, Berkswell becomes saltier, more complex and rather punchy.
£11.90 for 238g, nealsyarddairy.co.uk