For cheese, there’s only one place to head, and that’s the UK’s oldest cheesemonger, Paxton & Whitfield. Hero Hirsh, the head of retail for this award-winning cheesemonger gives us her pick of the best English cheeses to consider for your special get-together cheeseboard.
Blue Cloud £37.00/kg, pasteurized cows’ milk, vegetarian rennet
Inspired by soft Gorgonzola style blues, Blue Cloud is made on the beautiful Balcombe Estate in Sussex. Highly experienced cheesemaker Chris Hayes struck out on his own and started making Blue Cloud at the end of 2019, using milk from a single herd of Norwegian Red Holstein cows. Repurposing four old shipping containers as a dairy, the milk travels less than 10 yards from the milking parlor. The cheese is soft and creamy, with a heady, doughy scent reminiscent of freshly baked bread. The operation at Balcombe Dairy is small, so the supply of this delicious new British cheese is limited.
Westcombe Reserve £35.00/kg, unpasteurized cows’ milk, traditional rennet
Cheddar is undoubtedly the UK’s most popular cheese, outselling British and Continental counterparts, yet so often it is thought of as a cooking or an everyday cheese. Similar European hard cheeses, like Comte, are regularly selected for cheeseboards and special occasions. Over the last few years, Tom Calver and his team at the award-winning Westcombe Dairy, Somerset, have made several big decisions to improve the quality of their cheese. Lots of these decisions have been in the field, rather than the dairy, one of them being to farm in a more sustainable, regenerative way. These decisions have resulted in some of their best-ever batches of cheeses. The team at Paxton’s has selected a single day’s make of cheese, from the 12th of March 2020 – 450kg of Cheddar to age further and create a special profile. With a full body and notes of warm toasted nuts, this promises to be a very special batch of cheese indeed.
Ticklemore is a goats’ milk cheese made on the Sharpham Estate that overlooks the River Totnes in South Devon. The milk to make the cheese comes from Button Farm, on Dartmoor, where they have a herd of goats. The goats are all different breeds, producing different blends of milk that give the cheese its distinctive character. Ticklemore is made by hand using traditional methods and is matured for at least two months. It has a rich grassy flavor, with fresh cream and lemon notes.
Wigmore £42.00/kg, pasteurized, vegetarian rennet.
A semi-soft ewe’s milk cheese made from pasteurized milk using vegetarian rennet. The cheese is handmade by Anne Wigmore and her team at Village Maid Cheese in Berkshire. The curds of the cheese are washed and then packed into molds to drain, a process that produces a less acidic cheese. The cheese is then ripened for two to three months. The matured cheese has a pale, bloomy rind, a yeasty smell, and a yielding, soft consistency. This hides a luxurious interior that has a number of delicate flavors that include caramel, nuts, milk, flowers, and grass.
Baby Rollright £12.95/200g, pasteurized cows’ milk, traditional rennet.
This is the creation of David Jowett, a young British cheesemaker who used to work for us. David makes this cheese at King Stone Dairy in Chedworth, Gloucestershire. The organic milk used to make the cheese comes from a herd of British Friesian and Shorthorns at Manor Farm. Rollright has a peachy-colored rind that complements the pale, unctuous inner paste. It has a delicious full flavor that is savory and meaty with hints of sweet buttery notes. David now wraps the cheese in strips of French spruce bark, the same bark that is used to wrap Mont d’Or.
Perfect on your family or friends’ gathering cheese board because…This is an amazing English alternative to Mont d’Or.
Kirkham’s Lancashire £26.00/kg, unpasteurized cows’ milk, traditional rennet.
The dairy where the cheese is made is located at Beesley Farm, Goosnargh, North of Preston in Lancashire. It is made by Graham Kirkham, son of the original Mrs. Kirkham, using milk from the Kirkham’s own herd of Freisian cows. Graham’s mother, Ruth Kirkham, began making Lancashire Cheese at the farm over 30 years ago. This was a skill she had been taught by her own mother and has now passed onto Graham, making him the third generation of cheesemaker in the family. Unpasteurized milk is used to make the cheese, and the process is unique amongst English cheeses. Cooled evening milk is added to the warm morning milk and rennet is added; the curd is cut by hand with curd knives and then allowed to settle with a view to retaining as much fat as possible. The whey is drained off and the curd is stored for the night. The following morning the previous day’s curd is milled and mixed with the day’s fresh curd in a proportion of one to two. Keeping the curd overnight encourages the development of the acid that gives the cheese its striking whiteness and sharp-edged flavor. The cheeses are then salted, pressed in muslin, and allowed to dry out.
All the cheeses are available from paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk.