Wednesday, 7 April 2010
I love cheese – and so does my brother, GB. I recall that for one birthday – was it his 21st? – I gave him a selection of cheeses and a bottle of wine. But do you know why British Cheese is so impoverished compared to our continental cousins?
The answer, according to Tadg Farrington in “The Average Life of the Average Person” there were two major causes. Firstly, in 1865/6 the murrain or rinderpest hit our cattle and caused thousands of them to be slaughtered. The result was an acute cheese shortage that was quickly filled by the American factory-produced Cheddar. That paved the way for mass production of cheese in Britain, and, as a consequence, a high degree of standardisation.
Nevertheless, in 1939 there were still 1500 farmhouse cheesemakers. During the Second World War the government safeguarded the supply of milk by rationing that which could be used for cheese-making and also rationing the standard industrial cheddar that became the only cheese available. That killed off the majority of small cheese-making concerns and farmhouse cheeses though the number has grown by about sixty since the War and stands at around 700. That is according to most sources but figures range from 400 to 1200.
As a result not only do we eat less cheese than our Continental counterparts but we have far fewer national cheeses from which to chose.
An Italian-themed street market in Exeter – the sort of place to find interesting cheeses.
The website of the British Cheese Board has some quite interesting recipes.
Some of the main British cheese types are:-
* Blue Vinney
* British Brie
* British Camembert
* Buxton Blue
* Cornish Yarg
* Double Gloucester
* Red Leicester
* Sage Derby
* Shropshire Blue
The delicatessen in Dunkeld where GB introduced me to Gruth Dhu.
Sadly one of my favourites – Lymeswold – is no longer produced. One I haven’t come across is the surprisingly named Stinking Bishop. No doubt GB can add a few more of his favourites from the Wikipedia list.
One website that will particulalry suit GB is http://www.thecheeseweb.com/ which lists cheese events in both Britain and New Zealand.
The sad thing is that I am restricted in the amount of cheese I can eat because some cheeses are migraine triggers. Not that that is going to stop me nibbling the occasional cheese and chutney sandwich....
Posted by John Edwards at 00:48
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