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Three Cheeses from the British Isles

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France is usually the first place to come to mind when thinking about ancient cheese heritage, but the United Kingdom has a long, historic tradition of cheesemaking. Here are three you should try:

  • Single and Double Gloucester: Admittedly one of the more mild cheeses out there, Gloucester is a white or pale orange raw cow milk cheese that’s usually eaten young — between 2 and 9 months. (By the way, it’s pronounced “gloss-ter.” Now you can amble up to the cheese counter and request it like a pro.)

    Key cheesemaking regions in the United Kingdom.
    Key cheesemaking regions in the United Kingdom.
  • Stilton: Often called the “king of English cheeses,” this cylindrical PDO blue has been around since the 18th century. It can be produced only in the counties of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, or Leistershire (from local milk), but additional strict production laws exist. Stilton’s trademark earthy, meaty, full flavors make it an ideal pairing with port or dried fruit. It’s often thought of as a holiday cheese because the wheels, which are made in September or early October (the best time for producing this type of cheese) are mature at Christmastime.

  • Caerphilly from Wales: From the lunch pails of Welsh coal miners centuries ago to a sought-after treasure at today’s cheese shops, Caerphilly cheese has traveled some distance. Although the very first Caerphilly — a fresh, moist farmstead curd that workers carried into the mines — has nearly vanished with the advent of factory-made versions (which are rindless, acidic, and bear no similarity to the aged, natural-rind version discussed here), a new artisanal interpretation of old-fashioned Caerphilly has put this quirky cow milk cheese in front of connoisseurs.

  • Gorwydd Caerphilly, made by the Trethowan brothers of Gorwydd Farm in central Wales, debuted in 1996 to the delight of cheese aficionados. With little resemblance to the Caerphilly still made in British factory dairies, the Gorwydd version redefines Caerphilly and raises the prestige of the lowbrow cheese. Today, this aromatic, aged cheese with its furry gray rind and mushroomy flavor has become the benchmark for what this cheese can — and should — be.


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