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#45: Sparkenhoe Vintage Red Leicester

Spot the difference!

You’d be right in confusing this week’s cheese with last’s. Feedback from our new Red Leicester was that customers liked it, but would prefer a bit more whoomph. Luckily, Sparkenhoe produce a version matured for 18 months rather than 6.

About the young cheese they write:

A traditional Red Leicester cheese made from the milk of our own cows, a true revival of a fabulous cheese, nutty, sweet with a citrus finish. Cloth bound and matured for 6 months on beech shelves.

whilst about the mature cheese:

A truly wow cheese with a completely unique taste. It is matured for 18 months by which time the salt crystals have started to reform. The caramel flavours are more exaggerated and the overall flavour is strong without being acidic.

Come give it a try!

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#44: Sparkenhoe Red Leicester

New year. New cheese.

Now that the Silly Season is behind us, we can get back on with the serious business: Cheese of the Week.

For Christmas, Mrs. Cheese bought me a copy of “Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese”, by Bronwen and Francis Percival. The authors argue for Proper Cheese: shortening the distance between dairy farming and cheesemaking, and removing fertilizers, pasteurization, and microbial cultures from the process. Such practices are common today; there’s no need for any of them. Each changes the taste of the cheese, and takes it further from the environment in which it is fashioned.

This week’s cheese is a Red Leicester. Until now we’ve only stocked Thomas Hoe Aged Red Leicester (recently rebranded as Rutland Red). Customers love it: supermarket Leicesters are poor, and here was one they could really taste. But Thomas Hoe doesn’t satisfy the Percivals’ definition of Real Cheese: their maker, Long Clawson combines milk from 43 farms, beigeing the flavour.

This week’s cheese is not beige. Sparkenhoe is made my David and Jo Clarke of the Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Co. on their farm in Upton. Unpasteurised milk from the previous day’s milking is used in an old recipe, traditional animal rennet is added, and traditional plant dye annatto used, to give the cheese its rich orange colour. The cloth-bound cheeses are matured for six months, giving it a nutty flavour with a citrus finish. It’s fab, come give it a try.

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Best British Cheese

I’ve been spending time thinking about what cheeses to offer over the Silly Season. As usual, I wanted some great local cheese, alongside some rock stars from around the Isles. But with so many out there, how to choose? Time to put my researcher hat back on.

In 1994, Juliet Harbutt started the British Cheese Awards, to showcase our best cheeses. The Supreme Champion each year is the best of the best. Distances are given from the shop, for the localophile in me.

  1. Pavé Cobble (White Lake Cheese, 154 miles)
  2. Shropshire Blue (Cropwell Bishop Creamery, 49m)
  3. Barkham Blue (Two Hoots Cheese, 141m)
  4. Rosary Garlic and Herb (Rosary Goats Cheese, 164m)
  5. Tunworth (Hampshire Cheeses, 152m)
  6. Blue Wensleydale (Wensleydale Creamery, 67m)
  7. Kilree (Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese, 227m)
  8. Golden Cenarth (Caws Cenarth, 142m)
  9. Stilton (Quenby Hall, 63m)
  10. Barkham Blue (Two Hoots Cheese, 141m)
  11. Seriously Strong Cheddar (Caledonian Cheese, 165m)
  12. Tunworth (Hampshire Cheeses, 152m)
  13. Celtic Promise (Teifi Cheese, 134m)
  14. Extra Mature Cheddar (Montgomery Cheese, 161m)
  15. Organic Stilton (Cropwell Bishop Creamery, 49m)
  16. Innes Button (Highfields Farm Dairy, 48m)
  17. Aged Cerney (Cerney Cheese, 108m)
  18. Coolea (Coolea Farmhouse Cheese, 320m)
  19. Extra Mature Cheddar (Cheddar Gorge Cheese, 147m)
  20. Celtic Promise (Teifi Cheese, 134m)
  21. Milleens (256m)
  22. Lincolnshire Poacher (F.W. Read & Sons, 86m)
  23. Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire (46m)
  24. Innes Button (Highfields Farm Dairy, 48m)
Pavé Cobble

In 2016, Ollie Lloyd set up the Great British Cheese Awards, with a stronger focus on awarding based on the choices of the public, rather than professional tasters. The 2017 category winners were:

  • Lincolnshire Poacher (F.W. Read & Sons, 86m)
  • Barkham Blue (Two Hoots Cheese, 141m)
  • Tunworth (Hampshire Cheeses, 152m)
  • Sinodun Hill (Norton and Yarrow, 123m)
  • Cornish Blue (Cornish Cheese, 222m)
Lincolnshire Poacher

Further afield, six British cheeses won “Super Gold” at the 2016 World Cheese Awards, putting them amongst the 66 best cheeses in the world:

  • Cave-aged Goats’ (Ashley Chase Estate, 185m)
  • Cornish Kern (Lynher Dairies, 256m)
  • Gorwydd Caerphilly (Trethowan’s Dairy, 142m)
  • Mrs Bell’s Blue (Shepherds Purse Cheeses, 68m)
  • Lincolnshire Poacher (F.W. Read & Sons, 86m)
  • Unpasteurised Cheddar (Montgomery Cheese, 161m)

The Cave-aged Goats’ ranked highest, at number 13. The 2017 edition takes place in a couple of weeks in that there London.

Cave Aged Goats’

The mainstream press have made lists too, with good choices by the Indy in 2013:

  • Stichelton (32m)
  • Keen’s Cheddar (158m)
  • Stinking Bishop (Charles Martell & Son, 95m)
  • Stilton (Colston Bassett, 51m)
  • Innes Log (Highfields Farm Dairy, 48m)
  • Wensleydale Blue (Wensleydale Creamery, 67m)
  • Blacksticks Blue (Butler’s Farmhouse Cheeses, 47m)
  • Connage Dunlop (Connage Highland Dairy, 303m)
  • Cornish Yarg (Lynher Dairies, 256m)
  • Wigmore (Village Maid Cheese, 136m)

and the Torygraph in 2015:

  • Stawley (Hill Farm Dairy, 173m)
  • St James (Holker Farm Dairy, 72m)
  • Hafod (Holden Farm Dairy, 119m)
  • Beauvale (Cropwell Bishop Creamery, 49m)
  • Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire (46m)
  • Capra Nouveau (Brock Hall Farm, 59m)
  • Corra Linn (Errington Cheese, 174m)
  • Berwick Edge (Dorrington Dairy, 155m)
  • St Jude (White Wood Dairy, 153m)
  • Barkham Blue (Two Hoots Cheese, 141m)

A recent piece in the Grauniad focussed on unpasteurised cheeses, of which a few were British:

  • Innes Log (Highfields Farm Dairy, 48m)
  • Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire (46m)
  • Appleby’s Cheshire (Appleby’s Cheese, 43m)
  • Hafod (Holden Farm Dairy, 119m)
Innes Log

The Metro list is best avoided.

“Mature Cheddar”

Finally, I’ve recently been reading “All Cheeses Great & Small / A Life Less Blurry”, by Alex James. A lovely gift from our lovely friends at Reading Matters bookshop. Who better to choose the Rock Star of British Cheese than a Cheesemaking British Rock Star. Alex describes

  • Stichelton (32m)
  • Stinking Bishop (Charles Martell & Son, 95m)
  • Golden Cenarth (Caws Cenarth, 142m)
  • Tunworth (Hampshire Cheeses, 152m)
  • Cornish Blue (Cornish Cheese, 222m)

as brilliant cheeses, whose scarcity was part of their value.

Stinking Bishop

A longlist of long lists, leaving me no closer to a shortlist of modern classics.

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#41: Ogleshield

We’re very excited to have got our hands on some Ogleshield – Montgomery Cheddar’s softer, washed-rind, Jersey milk cousin. Ok so they’re not much alike, but they are made at the same place.

Made with fattier milk from a herd of Jersey cows, the cheese is then washed in brine every three days. It has a fruity flavour and a supple texture. It’s great for cooking, raclette-style or otherwise, but also a tasty nibble in its own right – a less gooey alternative to some other washed-rind cheeses.

Monty x



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#40: Gorwydd Caerphilly

Gorwydd (pronounced Gor-with) Caerphilly is a mature caerphilly produced by the Trethowan family. It used to be made on Gorwydd Farm in the Welsh mountains, but the dairy has now moved over the border to Somerset. It’s made according to a traditional recipe with raw unpasteurised cow’s milk and a traditional animal rennet. However, unlike traditional caerphilly that was sold young, Gorwydd is matured for three months. This maturation allows texture to develop through the cheese: a natural rind, surrounding a creamy mushroomy layer, with a crumbly lemony centre.

Gorwydd has won all sorts of awards. Most recently, “Super Gold” at the 2016 World Cheese Awards in San Sebastián, making it one of the top 66 cheeses in the world.

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#39: Peakland White

Peakland White is a crumbly, salty cheese made by our friends in Hartington. They describe it as having similarities to Cheshire, White Stilton, and Feta, and it lends itself to being flavoured with cranberries or smoked tomatoes. It is matured for only two weeks, and thus tastes young, fresh and clean. Suitable for vegetarians, and made with pasteurised local Derbyshire milk.

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#38: Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire

Ruth Kirkham is a name that has become synonymous with Lancashire cheese since she began producing her traditional raw milk cheese in 1978,  although she has now passed on the mantle to son Graham.

Made with raw milk and animal rennet, everything is done by hand, save the peg mill, which mills the curds. The cheese is then clothbound using a buttered cloth whilst it matures.

Pass the Eccles Cakes!

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#37: Smelly Ha’peth

We have finally got round to stocking some of everyone’s favourite former-soapstar-now-cheesemaker’s cheese. The Saddleworth Cheese Co (that’s Sean Wilson, or Martin from Corrie, as I’m sure he’s not at all fed up of being called) produce the trinity of Lancashire cheeses (crumby, creamy & tasty), but as we’re pretty big fans of Mrs Kirkham’s, we’ve instead plumped for the ‘other’ option – his blue cheese offering.

Smelly Ha’peth is a medium-soft blue. Made to his own recipe, Sean acknowledges Dovedale in its development. However Smelly Ha’peth has a more firm texture, and is less salty, with a nuttier flavour.

Thanks to Vicki for her recommendation!