I’m pretty sure that there is a unique cheese made in every city in every country across the entire globe. The UK is home to seven hundred British Cheese producers creating all sorts of dairy delights for us to enjoy.
My original idea was to give you readers a guide to Manchester cheeses, but it proved a little difficult to fill the space. So instead, find a guide to British cheeses with a slant towards the local producers we have dotted about.
Soft cheeses like ricotta and cream cheese are not matured at all, but some semi-soft cheeses are for periods of up to a month. They typically have a silky outer rind of thick mould that can be eaten or cut away. The texture of these cheeses is usually gooey, runny and oh-so-creamy and are perfect for melting or spreading on a biscuit. The French are well known for their soft cheeses like Camembert, Brie, and Roquefort but lots of British cheesemakers are really giving the Frenchie’s a run for their money.
One of these producers is Winslade Cheese from Hampshire who makes a cracking British Camembert. It is divine in its own right, but if you want a serious religious experience, then you need to try the Baked Winslade at The Creameries down in Chorlton. It comes oozy, gooey and melted to perfection with homemade sourdough toasts for dipping.
Garstang White is a local semi-soft cheese from Lancashire made with Jersey milk which makes this cheese utterly dreamy and comparable to a buttery Brie. You can find it on the cheese board over at The Albert Square Chop House.
As the name suggests, hard cheeses are firm in texture. Hard cheeses are your Parmesans, crunchy cheddars and Spanish Manchegos while semi-hard cheeses are things like Gouda, Gruyere and Comte. Making hard and semi-hard cheeses involves separating the curds from the whey before pressing the curd and compressing it.
At this stage, hard cheese is then either brined to create a hard outer layer or set in wax to keep the nasties out. This is then left to age for anywhere between two and thirty-six months and sometimes for as much as a couple of years. The longer the cheese is aged, the more intense the flavour and the harder the texture.
Keeping things local, the most famous hard cheese from this part of the world would be Lancashire cheese. Lancashire cheese is a cows-milk cheese which comes in three different varieties; Creamy, Tasty and Crumbly. No, these aren’t the names of the long-lost Dwarves missing from Snow White, the colloquial nicknames refer to the texture, and subsequently the age of the cheese.
Creamy is the youngest and is cured for a minimum of four weeks and a maximum of twelve. It has a fluffy, creamy texture- they didn’t choose that name for nothing– and great for melting on to toast. Tasty is left for up to twenty-four months with a distinct nutty taste the most famous cheese of this kind would probably be the Lancashire Black Bomb which is encased in a characteristic jet-black wax. Finally, there is Crumbly which tends to be matured for just six to eight weeks which produces a cheese which is fresh with a tart acidic tang.
Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese is a national treasure and is stocked in cheese shops, delis and supermarkets all over the country. Mrs Kirkham makes the Tasty and Creamy varieties of the cheese first and foremost but also dabbles in smoked cheese too and additional flavourings too.
You will not struggle to find it in Manchester but just in case you do, head to The Cheese Hamlet in East Didsbury to buy the raw material. You can also see it on the menu at The Refuge who serve it the traditional way alongside a freshly baked Eccles cake. Seriously, sounds gross but give it a try- you will never look back.
Asha’s are famous for their use of local and native ingredients and fusing them with Indian techniques, and on their summer menu, you will find a Lancashire Cheese Kulcha which is a bit like a small, cheese filled naan bread which is just as delicious as it sounds.
Blue Cheeses, like Stilton, are made in a similar way to hard or semi-hard cheeses. The difference is that blue cheeses are injected with mould cultures which grow inside which produces blue spotting or veining in the interior.
They are matured in temperature controlled environments that are typically damp such as caves, and many cheese producers choose to wrap the cheese in muslin or plant leaves to retain moisture as to make the perfect, cosy environment for the bacteria to grow. Yum.
The smell and taste are strong in blue cheeses and is a bit of an acquired taste, but blues are a must on any cheeseboard. Blue cheese is also a favourite to be cooked with because of this strong, unique flavour.
At Hawksmoor, they melt Stichelton Blue from Nottinghamshire into a hollandaise to go with your steak which is just unreal. In case the light, buttery sauce wasn’t enough on its own, the inclusion of the sharp, salty cheese makes this sauce the ULTIMATE accompaniment to a juicy steak.
Elnecot serves a Smelly H’apeth Blue Cheese parcel on their nibbles menu. This cheese from the Saddleworth Cheese Company, gets its name from an old-fashioned Lancashire term for a muddy child. It is a crumbly, blue cheese with a nutty undertone and a mild sweetness. It works perfectly in this dish from Elnecot, and after all, who doesn’t love cheesy pastry?
Although most blues tend to be on the more crumbly side, there are some softer varieties too. These cheeses are much younger and tend to have just a little bit of veining and mould growth which makes them milder and therefore a great entry level choice if you haven’t tried blues before.
Nicky Nook Soft Blue is an excellent choice (and it is local too). It has a delicious texture which can spread nicely and you can find it on the British cheeseboard at Albatross & Arnold.
Most of these cheeses we have covered thus far are made with pasteurised cow’s milk, but in theory, you can make cheese from the milk of any mammal. While you try and get the picture of what manatee, whale or platypus cheese would look and/or taste like, I can tell you that the most common kinds of milk used in cheese making come from standard farmyard animals.
Cow, Sheep and Goats milk are the most commonly used, and it is goats milk cheeses which are incredibly popular and are worthy of their own subsection in this guide.
Goats Cheese, or Chevre if you are French, is said to be one of the earliest dairy products to be made. Goat milk has roughly the same fat content as that from cows, but the big difference lies in the fatty acids in the goat milk which contributes the characteristic tang in the cheese. These acids also help the cheese naturally coagulate and split into curds and whey without the addition of rennet or acid.
On the whole, goats cheeses are soft and light, but longer matured cheeses may have an outer rind. One of these is Driftwood from Somerset which is a log of matured, unpasteurized goat’s cheese which is rolled in ash. This gives it a gorgeous coloured smoky outer shell which opens out into a soft, creamy centre which is chopped into discs. You can find it on the cheese menu at Grafene.