If your opinion of English cheese is based on the mass-market cheddar you can find in the supermarket, it’s time to update your cheese knowledge!
In recent years there has been a boom in English cheese marking, and there are now over 700 types of cheese produced in the UK as a whole. In fact, from Cheshire to Cheddar, Brie to Stilton you can find pretty much any variety of cheese on these shores. A staggering 98% of households in England buy cheese regularly and the UK cheese export market is worth more than £650 million.
The resurgence of popularity in artisan cheeses has helped to focus attention on the fantastic range of cheeses available in England right now. Here are ten of the best.
Sparkenhoe Red Leicester
If you think of Red Leicester as that vivid orange stuff in supermarkets that tasted more or less the same as cheap cheddar, it’s time to try some of the real stuff. Launched in 2005, Sparkenhoe Red Leicester has led the return to genuine red Leicester. A dark, fiery orange colour, with a soft, long-lasting nutty flavour and chewy texture, this has set a new standard for Red Leicester.
Stilton is one of England’s most famous food brands. For a cheese to qualify as a Stilton, it has to follow a number of rules, including a specific recipes and a strict pressing process, along with many other requirements. Stichelton abides by all of those rules, except for one. The creator, Joe Schneider, used unpasteurised milk. The result is a beautiful tangy white cheese that has caught the imagination of cheese lovers throughout the UK.
This is one of the most famous cheeses in the United Kingdom, thanks to its featuring in the Wallace and Gromit film The Curse Of The Were Rabbit. Stinking Bishop, as the name suggests, is strong smelling stuff. That’s because it is washed in perry, which helps to make the distinctive pink rind. Despite its odour, the cheese inside is soft, mild and herby and a real treat.
Beauvale is the English version of Gorgonzola. It’s a fairly new cheese made by Cropwell Bishop, a long established producer of Stilton. The beautifully smooth and fluffy texture of this cheese, which can almost become spreadable at room temperature, and its soft taste has helped it to scoop numerous awards, and is one of the most successful modern cheeses in England.
This is a famous old English cheese that is covered in nettle leaves as it is aged, helping to add extra spice to the final wheel. Cornish Yarg has won multiple awards, thanks to its creamy texture (which tends to be crumblier towards the middle of the cheese) and its slightly tangy flavour. And as a seasonal speciality you may also find it comes wrapped in wild garlic leaves.
Cheddar is England’s favourite cheese, and there is a variety of high quality cheddar out there, with Keen’s cheddar representing one of the best versions. A completely homemade West Country farmhouse cheddar, it has less of the sweetness associated with conventional varieties and packs a pronounced farmyard flavour that reminds you of what cheddar is supposed to taste like.
One of only a handful of modern companies still making traditional homemade Cheshire cheese, the Appleby’s cheese making process still involves bandaging the wheels rather than waxing them. The result is a tangy, zesty and crumbly cheese that represents the pinnacle of the Cheshire style.
This fresh, brilliant white cheese is made from goat’s milk, and provides a healthy, refreshing taste that doesn’t have the typical overpowering quality of typical matured goat cheese. The texture is quite solid, and the unusual shape of the finished product comes from the practice of draining into a container, which creates a natural rind with ridges on the outside.
A Camembert-style cheese that shows English cheese makers can make soft varieties as well as their French counterparts. Tunworth has an incredible flavour, with a distinctive wafer-thin rind. It’s no surprise that this is a multiple award-winning British cheese.
Up until 30 years ago, English-made goat and sheep’s milk cheeses were almost unheard, but these days they are at the forefront of exciting new cheese brands. Berkswell is a type of sheep’s milk that has matured to a firm texture with a sweet and nutter favour that lingers on the tongue.