Charles de Gaulle famously complained:
How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different types of cheese?
This was maybe a laughable statement back in the early 1900s, but now that we easily outstrip the French in the production of cheeses – and are finding ourselves increasingly ungovernable, thank you Brexit – perhaps it is time to start taking it a little bit more seriously. According to the British Cheese Board (the promotional and educational body for British cheese) there are now over 700 named cheeses currently produced in the UK. This is at least 100 more than in France.
Over thirty of them have been featured on Saucy Dressings, from the Oxford Isis, “a Mohammed Ali”, through to Simon Raine’s hard-to-find Brie de Weardale. And there are hundreds more yet to try. The British artisan cheesemaking industry is booming, with the number of cheesemakers rising over the past five years. And although they might be relatively new (at least in comparison to their French counterparts) they’re often based on traditional methods.
The Bath Soft Cheese Company (which produces the award-winning Wyfe of Bath) began some twenty-five years ago. Looking for a way to supplement their dairy business, the Padfield family dug out their grandmother’s recipe collection and found a traditional method for making soft cheeses. It had quite the seal of approval – Lord Nelson’s father had sent his son two similarly made Bath Soft Cheeses in 1801 and the appreciative recipient noted in his journal that it was definitely one to savour.
Perhaps unlike other areas, both old and new British cheeses are doing well internationally. At the 2018 World Cheese Awards, 185 awards went to British producers, including 12 Super Gold. The Golden Cross Cheese Company in East Sussex was named one of the top 16 in the world, while Feltham Farm in Somerset won at the at the Global Cheese Awards in 2017 with their Renegade Monk.
While our dairy products may be making us increasingly ungovernable, there’s no denying that it is giving us plenty of options in case of a no deal Brexit. Blessed are the cheesemakers, indeed.
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