Monday, 3 January 2011

Three Cheers For Cheese!

Christmas, and the whole jingly-jolly season of goodwill, is not merely about the giving and receiving of presents and stuffing yourself silly with Turkey. No indeed! It's also about Cheese. Lots of Cheese.... and biscuits of course.

We've had some really fine cheeses over the Festive Holiday. The fridge is still full of them. I see a good cheese and just have to buy a nibble or two. Any bit of cheese with a cider or perry connection is an obvious draw for me, but let's not forget that all cheeses have a strong connection with cider and perry, because as we all know, cider and perry are the perfect match for cheeses of all persuasions (other than the really smelly ones), and don't let the wine bores convince you otherwise.

So Christmas was coming, and sacré bleu, the Family Cheese Trunk was practically bare. Certainly there was nothing befitting of a Yuletide cheeseboard. It was time to venture forth and make a Cheesemonger happy...

On a largely fruitless Christmas shopping trip to Nottingham, I spotted a huge round of Camembert au Calvados in the aptly named Cheese Shop. Made from unpasteurised Cows milk, this rich gooey cheese has its rind removed before being dipped in a fruity Calvados/Cidre blend. It's certainly a lovely Camembert, though any 'appley-ness' is perhaps a little too subtle for my taste buds to detect. It was a good start, but sadly I arrived home to freshly baked bread and a bottle of Waitrose Vintage French Cider. One nibble led to another, and it never made it onto the cheesboard.

Talking of French cider, I managed to bag the last bottle of a very pleasant single variety Duché de Longueville Gros Œillet Cidre from the similarly well named Buntings Deli in Thrapston. You can find this excellent Normandy cider in the rather less delightful surroundings of Sainsbury. Cheese features strongly at Buntings, though in the case of a round of Stinking Bishop, rather too strongly I'd suggest. I came away clutching a chunk of fresh, grassy, garlicky Sharpham Rustic, an unpasteurised Cows Milk cheese, all-of-a-speckle with Chives. Yummy!

I can also recommend the garlic & herb loveliness of Scrumpy Sussex. As the name suggests, it's made from unpasteurised cows milk in deepest, lushest Sussex... with Scrumpy. Now I've never been one for the weird and wonderful flavoured cheeses. If I want chillis or Marmite with my cheese, I'm perfectly capable of adding my own thank-you-very-much. There may well be exceptions, but as a general rule of thumb, if the cheese contains something.... well! distinctly uncheeslike, it's a fair bet that the cheese is pretty poor to start with. Not so Scrumpy Sussex, which is a jolly fine cheese, albeit not one where the (ahem!) 'scrumpy' comes through in any obvious way. It's quite garlicky, but subtle and gently herby, and very moreish. This cheese came from the recently opened Cheese Shop in Stamford, which does exactly what it says above the door.

The Christmas Cheeseboard was completed by a generous chunk of Colston Bassett Stilton, acquired from Emerson & Wests of Market Harborough; and a wedge of 'Capstan Full-Strength' Double Barrel from the Lincolnshire Poacher stall at Market Harborough Farmers Market. Add to that some homemade pickles, a jar of our own delicious Quince & Perry Jelly, and it was quite literally a Whey Hey-hey of a Cheesy Christmas!

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