Of course there is no such thing as the perfect cheese board because like all the best things in life, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
However, as British, organic cheesemakers we are particularly appreciative of other British artisan farmhouse cheeses made with milk from farms with great environmental practices.
Photo credit: Harvey & Brockless
In light of this, here are the cheeses we are championing this Christmas. All of which can be bought from us from our pop-up fromagerie at The Cheese Shed, from 12th December.
A semi hard, organic cheese aged in hay which lends interesting grassy and fruity elements to the rind. The only cheese in Britain which is aged in hay.
Bix (middle) A soft, white-rind, triple cream cheese that is luxurious and indulgent. It is best eaten at room temperature and tastes delicious with chilli jam or drizzled in honey and paired with a sparkling wine or rosé.
A wash-rind soft cheese. Part of the characteristic flavour of Highmoor comes from the rind which varies in colour through buttery yellow, peach pink, to dark apricot or even rust tones.
Stichelton was created by Joe Schneider, one of Britain’s best cheesemakers in a bid to revive traditional, unpasteurised Stilton. As Stilton is PDO (Product of Designated Origin) and therefore can only be sold as Stilton if it meets all the legislative criteria, there is no unpasteurised Stilton available. The body that determined the criteria decreed that all Stilton should be made from pasteurised milk. Joe went ahead and created an unpasteurised blue Stilton-style cheese, in the homeland of Stilton (near Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire). Unable to call it Stilton he resurrected an older version of the word found in history books and called it Stichelton. It marries perfectly the signature characteristics of Stilton: a minerally saltiness with a sensational creaminess. It is an extremely hard cheese to make well and only Joe could pull it off with such aplomb. Photo credit: @sticheltondairy
Also up there in the category of best cheesemakers in the country is Stacey Hedges. Stacey has been making Tunworth for over 15 years being one of the first at the helm of the Great British cheese revival. Tunworth is an evolution of a traditional Camembert from Normandy. However in Normandy cream is skimmed from the milk to make butter. Stacey uses all the milk and as a
result her version is creamier and complex and unique. Photo credit: @mellischeeseltd
Sinodun Hill and Brightwell Ash
Rachel and Fraser are a local couple who early on made their cheese here at Nettlebed Creamery. They have since built their own dairy and creamery nearby in Shillingford. Not satisfied with the difficulties of making cheese – of which there are many – they also manage their goat herd themselves. Currently they have 180 goats who are milked twice a day. They then take their milk into their cheesemaking rooms where they make their award-winning unpasteuirsed goats’ milk cheeses. Sinodun Hill recently was placed in the top 16 cheeses at the World Cheese Awards. A fantastic achievement given that over 4,000 cheeses were entered in the competition. Sinodun Hill is light and zesty with a mousse-like interior and a wrinkly rind. Photo credit: @thecheesebarn
Brightwell Ash according to Patrick: “Tastes of clouds.” To others it is a silky cheeses with a beautiful ash-coated rind.
From the far north-west of Wales comes Hafod Cheddar. It was this outpost of beautiful Welsh countryside that first attracted Patrick Holden and other like-minded revolutionary agri-hippies. The Holden family started farming here in the 70s and went on to farm a herd of Ayrshire cows. Patrick then went on to be the Chair of the Soil Association and is currently head of The Sustainable Food Trust. The cows went on to produce organic milk which in turn has been turned into this wonderful cheese which beautifully reflects the terroir of this part of Wales. There aren’t many of us certified-organic artisan, farmhouse cheesemakers out there and we are very proud to have our cheeses next to Hafod. Photo credit: @poachercheese
Named after a famous song sung in the county of Lincolnshire this cheese is a cross between a traditional West Country cheddar and an Alpine cheese, such as Comte. Simon Jones started making the cheese thirty years ago and has built one of the best artisan cheese businesses in the country. Not only is the cheese superlative but the way in which the farm is run, including many green energy initiatives, is testament to a dedicated, animal-loving, environment-caring farmhouse cheesemaker. Now all the milk created on the farm is turned into cheese and the creamery runs seven days a week. Photo credit: @cheesecornerperu
Made by Selina Ethrington Biggar Blue is a blue-veined goats’ milk cheese. Selina has a herd of sheep and goats on her farm in Lanark, Scotland and also recently won a Supergold at the World Cheese Awards. Biggar Blue is loosely based on a Roquefort recipe (though Roquefort is made with sheep’s milk). It is unpasteurised, made with vegetarian rennet and aged for two months. The cheese has a saltiness associated with blue cheeses but also floral notes. Photo credit: @eatmorebritishcheese
St Jude and St Cera
St Jude is a beautiful cheese made by expert cheesemaker Julie Cheyney in Suffolk. It is a friendly, warm accompaniment to any cheese board. St Cera is its sister. It is the same cheese only its cheese is washed which accelerates breakdown on the rind of certain bacteria which adds deep flavours. Photo credit: @st.judecheese
Made with unpasteurised sheep’s milk by the Wigmore family south of Reading, this is a firm staple on my cheeseboard all year round. Ann Wigmore started making cheese in 1986 and has honed her skills with a variety of sheep’s milk cheeses and Guernsey cows’ milk cheeses. Wigmore can be sweet and nutty and breaks down into complex savoury flavours. Photo credit: @paxtonscheese
One of the most-established traditional Somerset farmhouse cheddars. The cheese is clothbound and matured on wooden shelves for twelve months, with their vintage maturing for eighteen months. Jamie Montgomery’s grandfather, Sir Archibald Langman, bought the family farm in 1911 and while so many others gave up during the World Wars, Montgomery’s has maintained
its unbroken cheddar-making practice to this day. Like the best cheddars Montogmery’s is made without using helveticus starter culture. It has a rich complexity with just the right amount of acidity. Photo credit: @montgomerys_cheddar
We look forward to seeing you at our pop-up fromagerie at The Cheese Shed, from 12th December, where you can buy all of the cheeses discussed above and ask us any questions you may have about these cheeses. Patrick & Rose