If you like me enjoy cheese, there are a wide variety of cheeses available in the UK, either home produced or imported. These include hard, semi-soft and creamy cheeses. The vast choice brings its own problems, however, since supermarkets have largely replaced the family grocer, who knew each customer's like and dislikes, you must rely on your own judgement when surrounded by a wide variety of cheeses, some of them unknown to you.
Supermarkets and shops these days sell small pieces of cheese, either pre-wrapped and displayed, or you can choose the size you require from the cheese counter.
The smaller the piece of cheese the more quickly it will dry out. However, when buying from either the whole cheese , or a ready cut pre-packed piece, avoid anything which looks too dry, too soft and especially if pre-packed, cheese looks as if it has sweated.
Once a cheese has matured it does not improve with keeping , especially when cut, so buy every few days rather than stocking up for a month.
Ideally cheese should be kept in a plastic container in a cool larder, or refrigerator.
It is not advisable to serve hard or soft cheese straight from the refrigerator. Cold temperatures mask the flavour of the cheese. Instead take if from the refrigerator at least an hour before eating and serve it at room temperature. Here are a selection of cheese to tempt you.
SELECTION OF BRITISH CHEESES
Ayrshire soft cheese This Scottish cheese is soft and creamy, with low fat content. It has a nutty, slightly salty flavour, perfect as a cheese with crackers and crisp-bread.
Cahoe A rich, full-cream cheese, it is seldom seen south of Scotland. Pale, almost white on the inside. It is rolled in oatmeal, and is best eaten on biscuits with no butter,
Caerphilly A moist, white cheese with a mild, slightly salted flavour. Caerphilly is easily digestible and can be eaten in larger quantities than most other cheeses.
Caithness A medium to strong tasting cheese which spreads and slices well. Caithness has a soft yellow colour and is often wrapped in tartan. It matures early, in 60 days, and is best eaten when young.
Cheddar This is probably the most popular of all English cheeses, it is the best known and most widely sold. English Cheddar has a strong yellow colour, and has a creamy texture. Its full, nutty flavour, varying in strength, makes it a good all purpose cheese. Scottish Cheddar has a firmer texture than English and often a stronger flavour. Imported Australian and New Zealand cheese are deeper yellow and have a milder flavour to English. The strongest Canadian Cheddar is Black Diamond.
Cheshire This is the oldest British cheese, Cheshire has a savoury, mellow and slightly salty taste White Cheshire is really pale yellow in colour, Red Cheshire is coloured with a vegetable dye which makes it look more like Red Leicester. Excellent for grilling.
Cottage Cheese Made from skimmed milk curds, cottage cheese is low in calories due to its low fat content. It is almost pure white with a mild bland flavour.
Gloucester Known as Double Gloucester, the flavour varies according to the maturity. It may be mellow and creamy, or have a distinct bite to it. Traditionally, Double Gloucester cheese was the colour of Guernsey milk, but today artificial colouring gives it a rich golden colour. Matured for between three or six months it has a firm smooth texture, Serve with crusty bread.
Lancashire One of the best cheeses for cooking because of its high fat content, Lancashire has a crumbly texture and an off -white colour. At its best it spreads like butter. Excellent for Welsh Rarebit or grated for soups and grilled dishes.
Leicester Is one of the milder cheeses, a true Leicester has a flaky texture. More compressed varieties, often called Red Leicester because of the orange/red colouring of the rind, are made nowadays. Good for sauces and grilling.
Morven A mild Scottish cheese made in small squares and with full flavour and texture, similar to that of Caerphilly. It is best eaten with biscuits or salads, not recommended for cooking.
Stilton Between the distinctive patches of blue mould, Stilton when ripened should be a rich creamy colour, not white which is the sign of maturity. Although Stilton dries out very quickly do not be tempted to soak it in port since this will only mark its true flavour. Best eaten with biscuits.
Wensleydale Crumbly in texture, Wensleydale varies in colour from white to creamy-yellow, but has mild taste. Wensleydale is good for cooking.
Have a look at my delicious cheese recipes.