By Raymond J G Wells
Holland is renowned for Gouda and Edam, Italy produces Romano and Parmesan, Greece is proud of Feta, France is famous for its Brie, Camembert and numerous other cheeses but England too is home to a number of wonderful cheeses.
For starters what actually is cheese? Well it is any product made from the concentrated curd of milk; the curd can be formed through the action of the rennet or by means of lactic acid.
Cheese was among the first manufactured foods and basically can be categorized into two basic types: hard and soft. The difference between them rests on the amount of moisture -called whey- left in the curd, the bacteria or mold used to produce their distinctive flavor and the method of curing. The food value and flavor of the cheeses now available in the market depends largely on the method of ripening employed in the production process.
Chances are that if you asked most people to name a cheese which originated in England they will pick…. Cheddar.
This fine cheese -although not patented- traces its pedigree back to the rural byways of Somerset in South West England. It was at the lovely Cheddar Gorge, in the lush, typically English setting of the Mendip Hills, that this hard-pressed, close-textured, delicacy was first churned out. Today Cheddar is produced in many parts of the world, including the USA, Australia and New Zealand, and comes in a range of flavors ranging from mild, mellow, on to a tangy mature masterpiece.
Just North East of Somerset is the attractive county of Gloucestershire which was the birthplace of another fine hard cheese-Double Gloucester. This pleasant tasting cheese is harvest gold in color and it keeps very well. It goes well with a fresh fruit salad or sprinkled over a tangy green salad.
We have to travel North to the English Midlands to find the home of what for many gourmets is England’s greatest cheese. Stilton, … “The King of English Cheeses”, originates from Leicestershire. This is a cheese for real connoisseurs. A Stilton requires some seventeen gallons of milk to produce and it takes up to three months in the ripening room to mature.
This much cherished offering has a truly memorable, mellow flavor which some aficionados say is almost unsurpassed anywhere in the cheese producing world. A walnut and Stilton salad is a treat of a dish, it makes a wonderful dip and goes well with a glass or two of port. For me anytime is Stilton time!
Finally, still in the county of Leicestershire we come across a rich russet red cheese called farmhouse Leicester. It’s distinctive color is due to the local cheese makers using a dye from extract of carrot. The cheeses are then bandaged to form a rhind. This cheese has a very mild, clean flavor and is an ideal desert cheese. It also goes down well with a slab of rich fruit cake and is very well suited for an appetizing snack of cheese-on-toast or as a filling in a sandwich. I find it is also good for Welsh-Rarebit.
There you have it, a short round-up of just a few of England’s nicest cheeses.
Bon Appetit !
Writer: Raymond Wells is a British born economist and writer currently living and working in Malaysia. He has writing credits in print magazines such as Frequent Traveller, Home & Country, Townswoman and International Living and in on line publications such as Mad Dogs Breakfast, the-vu, Zinos.com, Word Archive.com and Scribe and Quill.