British


One more cold-weather cheese from the Cheese and Champagne archives to keep you warm … check back next week for a fresh look and fresh posts!

… The cheese to put us back on track is Lincolnshire Poacher, a British Cheddar-like confection that you may find in your local cheese shop this time of year (I got mine at Surdyk’s). A raw cow’s-milk cheese that has been aged up to two years, Lincolnshire Poacher is made by the Jones family –  brothers Simon and Tim – who use the milk from their own Holstein cows to produce the cheese. Check out the family’s excellent Web site to learn more about the cheese-making process and watch videos of their self-proclaimed “happy cows.” (Hopefully, the California Milk Marketing Board won’t put up a fight for that slogan.)

Though you may frequently hear Lincolnshire Poacher described as a Cheddar, it’s not a true version of America’s favorite cheese. The recipe is loosely based on Cheddar, but the Jones boys say their modifications give their cheese a taste that’s a cross between Cheddar and Comté, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. Perhaps I’m biased based on my recent experience with Hook’s 15-Year Cheddar, but this cheese had a lighter, more subtle taste and lack of crystals, so my taste buds didn’t scream “Cheddar!” upon sampling. But could you use it in a recipe calling for Cheddar or slide it into Cheddar’s space on your cheeseboard? Absolutely.

One of the good things about a lighter-tasting cheese like Lincolnshire Poacher is that it is relatively easy to pair with drinks. Beer, of course, would be a no-brainer, and I could see it enjoyed with both red and white wines as long as they’re full-bodied. A sweet, fruity accompaniment greatly enhances the cheese’s flavor – I nibbled on some dried mango with my Lincolnshire Poacher last night and loved how the sugar content of the mango brought out the cheese’s underlying sweetness.

And if my words don’t convince you to try this cheese, maybe you’ll listen to one of our cheese-blogging colleagues, Kirstin, at It’s Not You, It’s Brie, who also recently posted about Lincolnshire Poacher.

— originally posted 1/20/10

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Before we begin with our latest cheese – an apology. The holidays were a busy time for the C+C families, and combined with our long-awaited reunion last week in Washington, D.C., this blog got the shaft. So sorry! But we’ve got a full slate of cheeses coming down the pike and are ready to keep rolling in 2010 – just about three weeks behind schedule.

The cheese to put us back on track is Lincolnshire Poacher, a British Cheddar-like confection that you may find in your local cheese shop this time of year (I got mine at Surdyk’s). A raw cow’s-milk cheese that has been aged up to two years, Lincolnshire Poacher is made by the Jones family –  brothers Simon and Tim – who use the milk from their own Holstein cows to produce the cheese. Check out the family’s excellent Web site to learn more about the cheese-making process and watch videos of their self-proclaimed “happy cows.” (Hopefully, the California Milk Marketing Board won’t put up a fight for that slogan.)

Though you may frequently hear Lincolnshire Poacher described as a Cheddar, it’s not a true version of America’s favorite cheese. The recipe is loosely based on Cheddar, but the Jones boys say their modifications give their cheese a taste that’s a cross between Cheddar and Comté, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. Perhaps I’m biased based on my recent experience with Hook’s 15-Year Cheddar, but this cheese had a lighter, more subtle taste and lack of crystals, so my taste buds didn’t scream “Cheddar!” upon sampling. But could you use it in a recipe calling for Cheddar or slide it into Cheddar’s space on your cheeseboard? Absolutely.

One of the good things about a lighter-tasting cheese like Lincolnshire Poacher is that it is relatively easy to pair with drinks. Beer, of course, would be a no-brainer, and I could see it enjoyed with both red and white wines as long as they’re full-bodied. A sweet, fruity accompaniment greatly enhances the cheese’s flavor – I nibbled on some dried mango with my Lincolnshire Poacher last night and loved how the sugar content of the mango brought out the cheese’s underlying sweetness.

And if my words don’t convince you to try this cheese, maybe you’ll listen to one of our cheese-blogging colleagues, Kirstin, at It’s Not You, It’s Brie, who also recently posted about Lincolnshire Poacher.

Though the cheese world is all abuzz about the recent release of Hook’s Cheese Company’s 15-Year Cheddar, which the Wisconsin creamery is selling for $50/lb., this week our list takes us back to the birthplace of Cheddar – England. Currently made by the third-generation of Montgomery family cheesemakers in Somerset, this farmstead Cheddar is lovingly crafted seven days a week using milk from the family’s own cows. Y’all know how much I admire Wisconsin cheesemakers, but you’ve got to give props to the Montgomerys, too, who make their cheese on the land that some believe was the location of King Arthur’s Camelot!

Montgomery’s Cheddar is made with raw cow’s milk and been aged for 14-20 months, so it’s possible that your slab may feature crystals, though mine did not. Instead, my piece was smooth, pasty and an almost bewildering bouquet of flavors. It was hard at first to place the taste – was this cheese fruity, flowery, nutty or sugary? The answer is: all of the above. It’s not a Cheddar with which to cook – it’s definitely for savoring in slow bites with pieces of fruit or nuts. Your beverage should be a Claret or nutty lager.

Sharing the same bright orange hue as Mimolette, Double Gloucester luckily does not mimic that French cheese’s blahness. Many confuse it for a cheddar, but Double Gloucester is not quite as firm. The cheese is made from the raw, whole milk from two milking sessions, hence the “double” moniker. (Single Gloucester is also made in England, but is not exported nearly as much, according to the British Cheese Board.)

I served Double Gloucester last week as part of a cheeseboard with a Belgian goat gouda, Humboldt Fog and Ouray, and while the four of us all enjoyed it, we had a hard time describing its flavor. My friend Casey thought it was minty, and upon further tasting and reflection, the rest of us got a sense of the cheese’s herbal undertone. Artisanal calls it “eggy” and Gourmet-Food.com says it has “the sweet aroma of milky carrots.” Regardless of how you describe it, Double Gloucester is delicious, and I like it paired with Stilton in the layered cheese creation called Huntsman. Serve it with a big red like Syrah or a British ale.

It’s been an exciting week here at C+C. Not only did Colleen and I get to see each other for the first time in more than a year (!), we spent a fabulous three days eating our way through New York City. We’ll have lots more to share about our NYC cheese adventures next week, but we won’t keep you waiting any longer for our report from the big gig: the 2009 Fancy Food Show.

yes, that is a humboldt fog wedding cake

yes, that is a humboldt fog wedding cake

The Fancy Food Show is the biannual event of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), and it’s like Nirvana for anyone who loves food. Since it’s a trade show, it’s not open to the general public, but as the co-writers/publishers of a top 10 cheese blog, Colleen and I were able to attend as part of the press corps. (We felt very official.) Unfortunately, our busy schedules allowed us to spend only four hours at the show and we barely scratched the surface, but we did get to visit a number of cheese-centric booths and taste lots of cheese.

The high and low points of the show:

Hits

  • Meeting some of our favorite cheesemakers, like Mary Keehn from Cypress Grove Chevre and Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm. Both were generous with their time and samples, and Mateo even mentioned that he put a link to our
    talking cheddar with Lucy of Neals Yard Dairy

    talking cheddar with Lucy of Neal's Yard Dairy

    Winnimere review on Jasper Hill Farm’s Facebook page. (Thanks, Mateo!) Mary posed for a quick photo with us just hours before it was announced that her Truffle Tremor won the sofi for best product in the cheese/dairy category at the show. A well-deserved honor! We also had fun chatting with the folks from Faribault Dairy and Grafton Village

  • Learning about new cheese partnerships, such as Faribault Dairy and Grafton Village’s new collaboration on Clothbound Cheddar. Vermont-based Grafton Village now sends its Clothbound Cheddar to Minnesota to age in Faribault’s famed sandstone caves. British cheese powerhouse Neal’s Yard Dairy is also working with Colston Bassett Dairy to age its Stilton, and the union results in a creamier, tangier blue cheese that we really enjoyed.
  • Finding some untasted cheeses on our list, like the triple-crème Brie from the Marin French Cheese Company and the Rogue River Blue from Rogue Creamery. (Washed down with a gulp of Rogue Chocolate Stout, yum.) Watch for our upcoming reviews over the next few weeks!
  • Discovering new products to pair with our cheeses. You’ll have to stay tuned for specifics, but let’s just say there was no shortage of chocolate, crackers, oils, teas, coffees and more. (Imagine if we’d had time to sample all the adult beverages, too!)

Misses

  • Unfriendly French cheese exhibitors. The only way we were able to sample any French cheeses was to linger around the cheese displays for approximately 10 minutes before the person working the booth would even pay attention to us. Memo to the French: The reason why people come to the show is to taste your cheese. It’s really hard for them to do that if you ignore them.

    perfect pairings from rogue and rogue ale

    perfect pairings from rogue and rogue ale

  • Absent American cheese exhibitors … and too much floor space. We had hoped to try more new American cheeses, but were disappointed to find the Capriole Goat Cheese booth unmanned. Others we just didn’t make it to (Utah’s Beehive, Coach Farm) in our short amount of time. It would’ve been nice if the American cheesemakers’ booths were less spread out (own pavilion next year, perhaps?), though I imagine people with more time to spend grazing benefited from other snacks between cheese samples. 
  • Our wimpy stomachs. We didn’t eat breakfast that day in order to leave room for lots of cheese samples, but we still became full relatively quickly. Perhaps it was the dozen or so cheeses we had sampled the day before. Or the large iced coffees we drank on the walk to the show. Or the three desserts we shared during the previous night’s dinner at Casellula. Anyway, we were stuffed much earlier than I had anticipated. I managed to recover in time to try a Magnolia Bakery cupcake at 10 p.m. that night. Colleen said she choked down half a sandwich during her bus ride back to D.C.

Did you attend this year’s Fancy Food Show? Any stories or tidbits to share? Spill them here!

(And another miss, from Colleen – using the iPhone instead of a real camera. Um, duh. Will bring better equipment next year!)

I consider Stilton to be the grand dame of blue cheese. It’s not quite as old as some of the French blues, like Fourme d’Ambert, but it’s one of the first cheese that comes to mind when I think “blue cheese,” and it just has the regal quality about it. It is first thought to have been made in early 18th-century England, and even though it wasn’t made in the town of Stilton, many travelers en route from London to Scotland would stop here and purchase the cheese, thus the moniker.

Where did I find that fun fact? Why, the official Stilton Web site, of course! Here are some other gems:

•There are just six dairies in the world licensed to make Blue Stilton cheese — Colston Bassett Dairy, Cropwell Bishop, Long Clawson Dairy, Quenby Hall, Tuxford & Tebbutt Creamery and Websters.
•Stilton is a “protected name” cheese and by law can only be made in the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire.
•It takes 136 pints milk (78 litres) to make one 17 lb (8kg) Stilton cheese.
•More than 1 million Stilton cheeses are made each year.
•More than 10 percent of output is exported to some 40 countries worldwide.
•Every cheese is graded before leaving the dairy to ensure only cheese of the highest quality is marketed under the Stilton name.
•White Stilton is also a protected name cheese and is made in a similar way to its blue cousin – except that no mold spores are added and the cheese is sold at about 4 weeks of age. It is a crumbly, creamy, open textured cheese and is now extensively used as a base for blending with apricot, ginger and citrus or vine fruits to create unique dessert cheeses.

OK, enough with the facts. How does Stilton taste? It’s on the stronger side of the blue-cheese spectrum, with a meaty, almost smoky flavor that fills your mouth. Though pasteurized, this cow’s-milk cheese offers enough oomph for even a raw-milk purist. I, of course, would be perfectly happy eating it straight from the wrapper, but it would also pair nicely with fresh fruit, such as apples and pears. The Stilton Web site also suggests plum bread and mango chutney, which would be intriguing to try.

Blue cheese=Port in many wine-and-cheese enthusiasts’ minds, and it’s certainly a good match, but keep an open mind when purchasing an accompanying wine. A sweet dessert wine or a full-bodied red would also work nicely. Artisanal Cheese and many other sites recommend a Sauternes if you’re not a fan of Port or are looking for a change from the usual wine.

My first taste of Shropshire Blue occurred about four years ago at a Capitol Hill-area restaurant called Sonoma. Colleen, our friend Jo and I met there for drinks and dinner before a movie, and for some unknown reason we thought we could finish off the restaurant’s full cheeseboard, which must have been about 15 cheeses. (We also thought this wouldn’t be enough, so we ordered at least one other dish. Crazy fools.) Shropshire Blue was one of those cheeses and I remember enjoying it, but by the time we left for the movie we were so stuffed that I couldn’t really differentiate all the fine cheeses we just consumed. It was a case of cheese brain.

So I was pleased to get another chance to experience Shropshire Blue and give it due diligence since I didn’t eat it with 14 other cheeses. And I found it to be a dense and delightful cheese that was hard to stop nibbling. A pasteurized cow’s-milk cheese from Nottinghamshire, Shropshire Blue was developed in the 1970s by one Mrs. Hutchison Smith and is now produced by the Long Clawson and Colston Bassett dairies. Shropshire Blue is often described as an orange Stilton, and it does look like a bit like a Stilton dipped in the powdered cheese packet you get in your box of macaroni and cheese. The cheese is creamier than Stilton, though it has the pungency one would expect from a strong blue cheese. After snacking on some yesterday, I decided to be nice to my husband and eat a palate-cleansing apple before kissing him.

Shropshire Blue is a natural match for sweets – ripe, sugary fruits and dessert wines like Port. If you purchase it as part of a cheeseboard, I recommend giving it the spot of honor as the strongest cheese on the platter. Though I love those washed-rind stinkers as much as any cheese lover, sometimes it’s nice to let the blues get the spotlight.

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