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11 November, 2019

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From Cheshire to Comté – where to find the best cheese

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Photo by Eric Huybrechts, CC BY ND 2.0

Comté is made in the foothills of the spectacular Jura Mountains

 

Here in Cheshire we’re incredibly fortunate to be makers of some of the finest cheese in the world.

Whilst Cheshire cheese is a tough contender, there are, undoubtedly, other cheeses that are almost as delicious.

This is my rundown of the ultimate European cheese adventure, with a special mention (of course) to the humble Cheshire cheese.

 

Cheshire Cheese

On the hunt for the ultimate Cheshire Cheese, it seemed sensible to find who was making it properly.

To me, to make cheese properly is to take your time and honour tradition. Nowhere honours tradition quite like Appleby’s of Hawkstone, who still make cheese using more or less the same methods that were implemented as early as the 11th century.

In fact, so old is Cheshire cheese that it’s Britain’s oldest cheese, and it is even mentioned in the Doomsday book!

Sarah Appleby is from a long generation of cheese makers and is currently the mind behind this award-winning Cheshire cheese.

Creating unpasteurised, cloth-wrapped cheese, with a long maturation and using ancient techniques, Sarah has managed to create a tangy and moist Cheshire that is more than worthy of a spot on this list.

If you choose to buy yourself a block, then save a little for this delicious cheese and onion pie recipe; the slightly-subtler flavours make it all the more special.

 

International Cheese Awards

Photo by Lars Plougmann, CC BY SA 2.0

Is there anything lovelier than a well-aged Stilton?

 

On the hunt for great cheese? One place seems an obvious destination: the International Cheese Awards.

The awards are handily based in Nantwich, so it’s not too far to travel for the best that the UK has to offer!

One cheese that was particularly delicious (and which I have since learned won the top prize) was the Tuxford & Tebbutt Stilton.

It was exactly as a Stilton should be—creamy and sharp. It was the sort of cheese that could cheerfully be demolished by the mouthful along with a slab of dark fruit cake.

In a moment of serendipity, I happened to stumble across another delicious cheese almost by accident. Whilst I waited excitedly for the judging, my friend went on the coffee run, only to spill it on his return.

A charming lady from Caws Celtica farm explained that in Greece they believe that if someone spills coffee, then money will follow.

This revelation sparked a lengthy conversation about unusual superstitions, one of which inspired Caws Celtica to make their Lammas Day cheese. Traditionally, when the animals left the pasture on the 1st of August, the locals would make a small cheese of that day’s curds in order to bring good fortune.

Caws Celtica still keep this tradition alive, and they ended up winning another ribbon at this year’s show to add to their collection.

Funnily enough, the cheese that won was none other than their Lammas Cheese—perhaps it really does bring good luck!

 

Comté Cheese

Comté cheese is an altogether more delicate cheese than the ones I’ve mentioned so far. Made only in a very specific region of France, this cheese has an AOC designation.

It’s made with raw milk from Simmental cows and is still produced much the same way as it was hundreds of years ago.

The Comté we think of is usually nutty and buttery, with a subtle and delicate flavour. These cheeses tend to be around 4-7 months of age and are truly delicious.

However, on a trip to Poligny, the centre of the Comté producing area, I was fascinated to try some aged Comtés. Some wheels are aged for several years by any of just thirteen affineurs.

Affineurs have a large say in how the cheese will feel, from the boards they age it on to the temperature and humidity of the room.

These more mature cheeses have a far punchier flavour, including some of those delicious salty crystals that just aren’t present in a young Comté.

Whether delicacy or punchiness is more your style, one thing is for sure—sitting beneath the backdrop of the Jura Mountains while tasting a selection of truly exceptional cheese is certainly a wonderful way to end this quest for the best cheese in Europe.

 

 

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