Which country makes the best cheddar? This question has plagued us for millennia (possibly). But no longer, thanks to the brave and fearless scientists who gathered on a rainy afternoon to undertake some difficult and dedicated Cheese Science.
- the West Country with Montgomery’s cheddar
- Wales with Hafod
- Scotland with Isle of Mull cheddar
- Ireland with Hegarty’s cheddar
- France with Cantal
- England with Lincolnshire Poacher
(For the purposes of this competition, we’re granting independence to the West Country) (I know there are other countries beyond this little patch but I couldn’t think of one that make a decent cheddar-ish cheese that I could get my paws on at all easily SORRY THE WORLD!)
The Testing Panel
Humans: Jenn, Kat, Katie, Mark, Pete #1, Pete #2, Tim
Felines: Roswell, Atari Teenage Kitten. Feline cheese tasters don’t get a vote.
In between scoffing the piles of roast potatoes, mounds of gingerbread, oodles of mince pies, and white truffle macarons(!!!), I make time to try my special Christmas cheese. Carefully chosen and lovingly wrapped, and placed under the tree for me to find on Christmas day….
Brillat Savarin with a layer of truffle
An extra-creamy French raw milk cow’s cheese, with a layer of fresh truffles running through its centre. I bought this from the truffle stall Tartufaia Truffles.
Brillat Savarin alone is a tasty cheese; rich and creamy, subtley mushroomy, and incredibly indulgent. So how much better (and oinkier!) can the added-truffle version be?
There’s precious little dialogue in this film; a couple of mumbled lines, and some yelling of names about sums it up. But the two main actors have a wide range of non-verbal noises at their disposal; they grunt, yelp, pant and sniff, splutter, shout, smoke and cough their way through making their mother’s coffin, and carrying it downriver. Mostly, they grunt.
From each category of the mainstream bacterial/microbial/fungal actions that make cheese CHEESY, I chose a favourite from what I’d reviewed so far. I assembled them together, and got some folks around to eat them for me, and rate each of them out of ten.
And here, in reverse order, are the best cheeses so far, and how they rated with my tasters.
Tomorrow I’ll be revealing my favourite cheeses from the 100 I’ve written up here, and I’ll be harnessing the powers of drunken chums science to work out the Supreme Winning Champion Cheese. But for now, here’s cheese 100.
A hard raw-milk cow’s cheese from Somerset, bought from Neals Yard Dairy.
Monty’s is a real beast of a cheddar; strong and dense and farmy. I think it’s my favourite cheddar, and it’s definitely a classic. The rind of our wedge is pale biscuity white, imprinted with the pattern of the cloth it was bound in. It’s smattered with fissures of a powdery beige – these remind me of lunar craters, but are the work of the cheese mite. Cheese mites love cheddar!
A small Italian goat’s cheese from The Tasting Room
This round little goat’s cheese comes sitting in its own cupcake wrapper. A label sits directly on the cheese, depicting a hairy, horny goat. The cheese underneath is a pale cream colour, with big, squidgy geotrichium wrinkles and a smattering of white bloom peeking out around them. When I cut a wedge, there’s a sticky, gloopy liquid layer underneath the rind and a solid white chalky centre.
It’s sticky and luscious, tasting milky and nutty, and with a hint of warm dry straw. The soft skin of the rind prickles my mouth just a tiny bit, and tastes of mushroom soup and almonds. The hard centre of the cheese has a touch of moussyness to it, and is slightly sharper; it tastes of salt and lemonpips.
EXCITEMENTS next week will include not only cheeses 98 – 100, but also the CHEESY LOVER 100 CHEESES AWARDS, where I’ll be choosing my favourites of the 100 so far tried, and combining them together on a supercheeseboard. And then eating them!
Blu di capra
A blue raw milk (I think) goats cheese from Lombardi, Italy, bought from Gastronomica.
The pale, almost grey paste of this cheese is smatterd and scored with a green mould. The rind’s a bloomy mix of white and biscuity colours, with occasional patches of the same mould. When I cut into the cheese, it crumbles slightly.
A raw goat’s milk cheese from France, bought from Mons.
This is a little leaf-shaped nugget of cheese, covered in a pretty wrinkled geotrichium rind. It’s been dusted with ash, top and bottom, and is a lovely charcoal-grey colour under its wrinkles. The sides are paler and less ashy, but still have that brain-wrinkled rind, pale creamy yellow with a white bloom.
A soft-ish blue cheese from Nottinghamshire, bought from Neals Yard Dairy
Coming south from hence we pass’d Stilton, a town famous for cheese, whch is call’d our English Parmesan, and is brought to table with the mites, or maggots round it, so thick, that they bring a spoon with them for you to eat the mites with, as you do the cheese.
So wrote Daniel Defoe in 1727.1 Maggots and mites! Our wedge of cheese – bought to savour with a piggerish civilised after-dinner port – harbours no visible wildlife, unless you’re counting the mould. The rind’s a crusty pale biscuit, with a soft white bloom. Inside, the pale yellow paste’s scored and splattered liberally with green-grey Penicillium roqueforti. (P. roqueforti is guaranteed a place in my Top Ten Fungi List, if I ever make a Top Ten Fungi List.)