“Shades of autumn”

29 September 2017, 04:12 am
Dairy Dispatches by George Paul

As summer slowly drifts into autumn, and cool breezes and rain begin to dominate, the weather brings a imperceptible but decisive change in taste and style for most shoppers. The summer sensations of Feta, Brie, additive cheese and BBQ favourite Halloumi slip off the agenda in favour of stronger, rounded flavours. Delicacy gives way to robust styles and a depth of taste

There is a profusion of cheese types to fill that demand. Barbers and their associate company Ford Farm offer two stylish and contrasting West Country Cheddar brands that would grace any counter. The 1833 Cheddar at 24 months is an absolute classic, with great depth, lingering flavour and a subtle delicate crunch that retains the faith in the UK’s greatest gift to the cheese world. By contrast the coastal brand of Ford Farm is sweeter and lighter, but nonetheless an absolute pedigree Cheddar that will delight the younger shopper who enjoys that modernist style.

Missing for over one year, following the disastrous collapse of a Midland cold store, Belton’s Red Fox will return to shelves by late September. True, the traditional version has been consistently available, but in its relatively short time in the mainstream, the main bulk production of Red Fox Red Leicester has cast a big shadow. With its intensity, richness, crunchy edge and long distinctive flavour it will soon be back in full demand. From the artisan locker, James Martin’s personal favourite Lincolnshire Poacher has never stuttered from its lofty position as a classic of British unpasteurised cheesemaking. Robust and hard with a fractured texture from 18 months of rigorous ageing, it delivers complex, comprehensive flavours that ring around the palate long after it’s consumed.

Keen’s Cheddar also demands a revisit as autumn leaves fall. It has a big, sturdy body, and transports the classic West Country farmhouse taste beloved by so many.

Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, the classic Midlands favourite, is vying for its share of trade identity that it’s worked so hard to establish and is another classic cheesemaker who makes distinctive, full-flavoured cheese. Also for the autumn taste checklist are Gorwyd Caerphilly and the powerful unpasteurised Mrs Kirkhams Lancashire. Classic Lancashire originals; lightweights these are not.

Mrs Appleby’s is another winter warmer, with a tangy fruit edge on the classic breakable but creamy texture that is the hallmark of the most recognisable unpasteurised Cheshire in the UK, and its ancestral roots going all the way back to the Domesday book.

No gathering could be complete without the leader of blue cheese in the UK, Blue Stilton. Colston Bassett, from its spiritual home in the vale of Belvoir, superbly balances the sharpness of blue with the golden sweetness of the paste, melding into a rich, creamy, luxuriant treat.

And it need not end there, because our Continental cousins want their autumn winners to invade our world. In a short time we shall see the arrival of Vaccherin Mont d’Or, that classic winter cheese from the Vosges Mountains, as the cows come to lower pastures. Growing in popularity year upon year, this powerful, intense, rich cheese improves week-on-week through the season to its Christmas peak. Served cold or even hot with crusty bread, this is an amazing autumn treat.

Full-flavoured hard goat’s cheese now takes centre stage, easing aside the soft varieties of summer. From the amazing Klaver family in Holland comes an eponymous handmade Gouda-style aged goat’s cheese. Brilliant white, resonant with flavour yet smooth and elegant, few are aware of its 100% goat’s milk credentials.

Autumn may leave us yearning for sunny summer days, but it rewards us with an intensity of flavour that smears the palate with great taste that lingers like a good red wine. The seasons have turned and so flavours will deepen and intensify as the colder weather closes in, but we are ready and it’s set to be a great autumn.

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