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.

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.

I thought Quickes Farmhouse Cheddar would be a slam-dunk. I love cheddar, I love raw-milk cheeses, I love aged cheeses. But I didn’t love this raw-milk, aged cheddar.

A disappointing cheddar

A disappointing cheddar

The Quicke family has been farming in southwest England for more than 450 years, and the dairy has been in operation for 25. Its cheeses and butters have brought in accolades from all over the world. So I was surprised to find my slice of Farmhouse Cheddar to be bland and chalky. No cheddary tang, no pleasing mouthfeel. After tasting the cheese on its own, my husband and I sliced it for grilled-cheese sandwiches, but it didn’t improve by melting. I’m hoping that it’s just that I got an abnormally bad piece (if so, Surdyk’s, I expect more from you!) and Quickes Farmhouse Cheddar isn’t a lost cause.

Don’t let my experience turn you away – give it a try yourself! Serve the cheese with a big glass of red wine and some crackers. And be sure to let us know how it tasted.