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On a roll – our British cheese round-up

July 17, 2013
by | guides

Almost worth getting married for. (Pic courtesy of Caws Cenarth Cheese.)It was one of the Pitchup.com team’s fault. Bringing in a wonderfully whiffy cheddar to the office, which got us musing on Britain’s best cheeses. (After we’d wrestled the sniffy Somerset specimen from his mitts, that was.)

Painstaking research – well, a quick  poll – has revealed (unusual) agreement among Pitchup.com that our favourite cheeses are particularly strong and whiffy. Nevertheless, we think we should make doubly sure of agreement and sample All The Cheese (over 700 of them) – and then perhaps sample them all again if we can’t make up our minds. There are arguments about the best cheese on toast recipe raging after all…

In the meantime, here’s our hungry look at the best of British cheese including cheesy festivals, a Stilton recipe that almost made us cry, and a genius invention in Scotland called the Cheese Trail.

Stilton

Oh, glorious Stilton. How we love you knocked back with port and how delicious you look added to spaghetti, mushrooms, eggs and fresh cream. You are a gateway cheese for many who move onto even smellier specimens from across the Channel, but we will always remain faithful to our first love. Although we’ve just heard that sales of Stilton are ‘plummeting’ among the young as apparently they are ‘afraid to eat the mould’. Tsk.

Cheesy fact: Stilton can only be made in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, but campaigners say the ‘original home of Stilton cheese’ is the village of, er, Stilton in Cambridgeshire. After much campaigning on the issue, a DEFRA consultation on this was duly announced in May 2013.

Perl Las

A blue cheese from Wales, which translates as ‘blue pearl’. Yes, we like blue cheeses (see also Dorset Blue Vinny, Blue Cheshire, Isle of Wight Blue, Exmoor Blue, Shropshire Blue and even Blue Monday, named after the song by New Order and created by ex-Blur bassist Alex James). This one has a ‘strong but delicate’ taste, a peppery flavour and is said to be stronger than Stilton. We’ll have to sample a few wheels to make our own minds up.

Cheesy fact: Makers Caws Cenarth also do cheese wedding cakes. That is also all.

Stilton. Not home of Stilton.Wensleydale

We can’t say the name of this cheese without lapsing into a Northern accent a la Wallace from Wallace and Gromit, but we don’t think the manufacturers would mind as the firm was going into bankruptcy in the 1990s before Wallace and Gromit made it famous. We bet they had massive cheesy grins after the release of A Close Shave.

Cheesy fact: It was the French wot done it, as the cheese was first made in Britain by French Cistercian monks from Rocquefort who settled in Wensleydale and brought their recipe for ewe’s-milk cheese along with them. Clever.

Cheddar

It doesn’t pong at the cheesy feet level of the best blue, but it’s what everyone on the country cut their cheesy teeth on, unless they’re called Gideon or Amelia and were weaned on French brie. Originating of course in lovely Cheddar in Somerset, Cheddar has been made in Britain since the twelfth century and is the most popular cheese in the country, accounting for just over half of our cheese market. Yums.

Cheesy fact: In 1837, President Andrew Jackson invited the nation to the White House to help him eat a 1400-pound wheel of Cheddar. When the day arrived, the cheese had been fermenting for over a year and could be smelt half a mile away. The crowd of over 10,000 cheese fans/freeloaders demolished the lot in around two hours.

More grate British cheeses:

Cornish Yarg – winner of Best English Cheese at the 2012 International Cheese Show

Gold Stilton – £60 a slice; now sold out. And we would have bought twenty.

Stinking Bishop, Gloucestershire – also in Wallace and Gromit (Gromit revived a fainted Wallace by waving the cheese under his nose)

Innes – award-winning hand crafted goats’ cheese from Staffordshire

Barkham Blue – winner of best British cheese at last year’s World Cheese Awards and Supreme Champion in 2008

Blacksticks Blue – award-winning cheese from Lancashire

Connage Dunlop – award-winning organic cheese from the Scottish Highlands

Black-Eyed Susan – peppercorn-pitted organic brie from Somerset

Ford Farm Cave-Aged Farmhouse Cheddar – aged in the Wookey Hole Caves

From specific cheeses to celebrating the whey of the curds:

Cheese Trail, Scotland

What cleverness. The Scottish Cheese Trail takes cheesy connoisseurs on a tasty trail from cheddar in the Orkneys to the award-winning cheeses of the Loch Arthur community in Dumfries and Galloway. While we know that technically cheese ‘should’ be consumed with something refined like port (or Buckfast), we say pah to that and that you can and should guzzle Scottish cheese while also guzzling Scottish whisky. Handily, we have a guide to that too.

Cheese festivals

Alack! The Great British Cheese Festival isn’t on this year as part of the Cardiff Country Fair at Cardiff Castle (it will possibly be back in 2014, say castle staff). As we’re generous in our gluttony, we’ve rounded up a few cheese and cheese-including events around the land:

Nantwich Show, Cheshire: 31 July (‘the largest Cheese Show in the world’)

Cardigan River and Food Festival, Ceredigion: 10 August (award-winning cheeses to chomp)

British Cheese Awards – Cheeses on the Green, Oxfordshire: 7 September

Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival, Dorset: 14 – 15 September

Frome Agricultural and Cheese Show, Somerset: 14 September (home of the Global Cheese Awards and one of the oldest cheese shows in Britain)

Brie-iliant links:

Campsites and caravan parks with a nearby farmers’ market

Sites in an area of gastronomic delight

Local produce on site

Farm campsites

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