The best cheeses in Britain – and the perfect accompaniments
British cheesemakers adapted to the epidemic with admirable enterprise, and there are few more entrepreneurial than farmer-cheesemakers Martin Gott and Nicola Robinson. They bought a herd of goats from fellow cheesemaker Innes, when it closed during the crisis, and swiftly created a range of new goat’s cheeses. Soft, wrinkly-rinded Ingot is the best of the bunch. Made in distinctive bricks, the raw-milk cheese has a snowy white interior and bright acidity, plus notes of barnyard and warm dough.
There are other ways to bring the goo beyond Brie. Soft, sheep’s milk cheeses are naturally rich in butterfat, making them particularly luxurious and celebratory. Wigmore, made by Village Maid Cheese, is one of the best thanks to a bloomy white coat and melted chocolate interior with floral and milky notes. It becomes runny and savoury with age.
St Helena, Suffolk
Another new cheese born during lockdown, St Helena is similar to the French fromage St Nectaire. Made by Blake Bowden and Julie Cheyney at St Jude Cheese, the rind is washed as it matures to create a wonderfully mottled exterior, which imbues the bulgy paste with wild mushroom and forest floor flavours. Melts to velvet ooze in a Boxing Day toastie.
Pitchfork Cheddar, Somerset
Savoury, complex and lingering, traditional cloth-bound cheddar is a completely different beast to plastic-wrapped block versions, despite bearing the same name. It doesn’t get more traditional than Pitchfork, which is made by the Trethowan Brothers and reached the final of the World Cheese Awards 2021 from a field of more than 4,000 cheeses. Handmade with organic raw milk and aged for a year, it’s juicy and grassy with a firm tang and a French onion soup finish.
Rachael Reserva, Somerset
A big cheese in more ways than one, White Lake’s crunchy goat Gouda is made in huge 12kg wheels. These are aged for a year and washed in brine to create a whiffy, speckled orange rind and powerful flavour. It bursts with caramel, pineapple and roasted hazelnut flavours, plus a deep umami finish.
Sparkenhoe Shropshire Blue, Leicestershire
The Clarke family are famous for reviving traditional, raw milk red Leicester at Sparkenhoe Farm, but they have also developed several new blues, which have got curd nerds excited, especially Sparkenhoe Shropshire blue – the only raw milk version of the cheese in the country. It’s made in the same way as Stilton, but with added annatto (a natural orange colouring), which gives a striking sunset hue. Flaky and fruity, the cheese has a mellow piquancy crying out for something sweet on the side. Digestive biscuits do the trick nicely.
The perfect accompaniments for your British cheeseboard
Crackers, pickles and red wine are all well and good, but there are alternative accompaniments to add excitement. Try beer or sherry, and add boozy cherries, funky kimchi or chocolate to the board.