Let me introduce this guest post by saying that I truly love cheese and am actually hungry after reading this. If only I had plans to head back to England soon to fill up on all these goodies!
Britain may be a small island, but British cheeses have some serious personality! Not sure which ones to sample on your London break? We’ll help you decide with some top facts about UK cheeses — and why the British are barmy for them!
The British annually scoff around 600,000 tonnes of cheese — that’s about 10kg per person! It might sound like an awful lot, but it’s half the amount that our European cousins consume.
The Choicest Cheese
The UK favourite is Cheddar, one of the most commonly-produced cheeses on the planet. It gets its name from the Somerset gorges where it was originally stored, and the distinct flavour derives from a process called ‘cheddaring’ which involves stacking and turning the cheeses every ten minutes.
Surprisingly, the UK produces more mozzarella than Italy, mostly due to the pizza industry. Unlike the Italian variation, it’s not always made with buffalo milk, but has the added advantage of minimal food-miles. Britain also produces a good percentage of the Brie, Camembert and Gruyere consumed in the country.
Cheese-making in Britain dates back thousands of years. Wensleydale can be traced back to the 12th Century, when Norman monasteries carried out production. Cheshire is even older. Dating back to Roman times, it even has a mention in the Domesday Book!
Every year, cheese enthusiasts take part in the annual Gloucestershire Cheese-Rolling event, when a cheese-wheel is rolled down a steep hill, followed by competitors who brave broken bones to be first across the finish line. The runaway cheese is said to reach speeds of up to 70mph!
In 1987, a piece of 1,400 year-old cheese was discovered in a bog in Ireland. Still edible, the extremely mature sample was tested by experts and said to resemble an over-ripe Wensleydale. The archaeological find was stored in the Roscrea Heritage Centre in Tipperary, alongside other ancient cheeses.
Blue cheese buffs might like to try the Stilton Cheese Makers Association’s signature scent — Eau de Stilton — a fromage fragrance made using grapeseed oil. Not to everyone’s taste, the pungent perfume is said to have earthy undertones, and received mixed reactions from punters.
Strong and Stinky
Stinking Bishop is one of Britain’s oldest cheeses, made from Gloucestershire cow’s milk. Its distinctive smell derives from washing the cheese in pear juice during ripening. The powerful stench has been compared to sweaty socks and derives from the juice-soaked rind, rather than the cheese itself.
The uniquely-named Cornish Yarg may sound like an old Celtic word, but in fact derives from the farmer who first produced it. Supposedly finding the recipe in his attic, Mr Gray simply reversed the letters in his surname to create a Cornish-sounding moniker. The cheese is wrapped in nettle leaves and sprayed with a white mould to produce its unusual flavour.
Despite the name, you’ll be surprised to learn that Shropshire Blue is mostly made in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, with no connection to the eponymous county. First made in the seventies in Scotland, the orange cheese originally used the name for marketing purposes to boost its popularity.
These cheesy facts have been provided by Show and Stay, the specialists of theatre breaks in London.