Guy Warner: Chart-topping cheese
PUBLISHED: 10:31 15 August 2017 | UPDATED: 10:31 15 August 2017
In the Cotswolds, we’ve got a cheese to suit every mood and they’re all award-winners...
Cheese is the undoubtable rock star of the food world – much like with music, there’s a cheese to suit every mood you’re in. Want something with a bit of punk edge, go for a strong cheddar; need to chill out reggae-style, try some smooth brie; fancy dancing the night away, then go for a tangy stilton! The point is, the range of cheese available to us today is huge.
In fact, there are as many cheese award ceremonies in the UK as there are music awards (Great British Cheese Awards, World Cheese Awards, International Cheese Awards, Artisan Cheese Awards, Global Cheese Awards...) and that’s saying something; heck, cheese has even got its own frontman, in the form of Alex James, former Blur musician turned celebrity Cotswolds cheesemaker!
Not so long ago, our cheese was ridiculed on the other side of the pond for being too manufactured, like some cheesy pop record, but over the last decade, small artisan producers have sprung up who are taking British cheese-making seriously. These are the Ed Sheerans of the cheese world, taking their craft to record levels, both in terms of quantity and quality. In the UK, there are now over 750 named cheeses, 350 more than are produced in France, resulting in the UK being tipped as today’s leading global cheese producer.
One of the things I love about cheese is that it’s a truly regional food. Indeed, the Cotswolds has a strong tradition of cheese-making and is brimming with gold-standard cheese producers. As you would expect, we have fine double and single Gloucesters (which has a Protected Designated Origin and can only be made in Gloucestershire using milk (partly) from the rare breed Gloucester cattle), but there are also some surprise contenders. An award-winning brie made in Gloucestershire? Mozzarella-style cheese from the Cotswolds? A Gloucestershire halloumi, feta and Parmesan? In fact, no matter what your taste in cheese, you’ll find that the Cotswolds does it damn well.
Cheese to please
To help you put together a cracking Cotswolds cheeseboard, Jeremy Bowen of fine cheese specialists, Paxton & Whitfield, suggests the following artisan cheeses...
Simon Weaver Organic Brie: if you thought the French did the best brie, then you haven’t tried these local award-winning favourites from Simon Weaver. Simon produces a range of very fine organic, hand-made bries: the plain brie is mild and creamy, soft and butter, while the herb brie is studded with a mix of herbs which peps up the flavour.
Godsell’s Farmhouse Cheese: with almost 30 awards behind her (including Cotswold Life Top Cheese 2016), Liz Godsell of Godsell’s Cheese knows her stuff. The whole family helps to make a range of innovative cheeses, from the traditional to the outlandish – one of my favourites, Holy Smoked, is the only smoked Single Gloucester in the world, but you may prefer to try the camembert-style Scary Mary, the Cheshire-style Three Virgins or the Parmesanesque Singing Granny!
Jonathan Crump: one-man band, Jonathan Crump, has achieved extraordinary things with cheese. As a sole producer, he focuses on making the perfect Single and Double Gloucester cheeses and is the only producer to use milk solely from Gloucester cattle. Milk from these cows is creamier and higher in fat content than other breeds and it shows; Jonathan’s cheeses are both multi award-winners and in 2015, he was crowned Supreme Champion at the Three Counties Show.
Windrush Valley Dairy: award-winning soft goats’ cheese is what you’ll find at Windrush Dairy, produced from a herd of British pedigree Saanan goats. The range includes a pure, unflavoured soft cheese, a herb and garlic cheese made with fresh coriander, chive and garlic, a black pepper cheese and feta-type cheeses.
St Eadburgha: if you don’t think you like camembert or brie, prepare to be proved wrong by St Eadburgha, matured by Michael and Diane Stacey for 4-12weeks on their organic farm near Broadway. Low production means this is almost impossible to buy other than in the Cotswolds. Multi award-winning and highly prized by cheese connoisseurs, it’s milky and creamy with a distinct farmyard flavour which is rich yet delicate.