First, a confession. When I received an initial email from Aldi’s PR people, telling me that they were launching a new British cheese range, my first thought was along the lines of ‘Euw, that’s unlikely to be pleasant.’ It wasn’t a snobbish reaction against discount outlets but more a terror of supermarket cheese in general. I was once on a panel that had to judge supermarket territorial cheese and it was a fairly dismal experience. It was impossible to tell apart a Wensleydale from a Caerphilly, Lancashire or Cheshire, and the orange versions could equally have been Red Leicester or Double Gloucester. I digress but, in conclusion, I nearly did the British thing of ignoring the email entirely.
A little voice in my head, though, chirruped: ‘Come on! You’re supposed to write about all British cheese. Stop being so precious.’ So I emailed back and braced myself for what might follow (Tropical fruits? Mint chocolate chunks?) It’s fair to say that I was surprised by what followed next. Not only was there no fish and chip flavoured Cheddar in sight, but Aldi had lined up an impressive roll-call of producers for their new range. From the Appleby family in Shropshire, renowned for their unpasteurised Cheshire, to Dewlay Cheese in Lancashire, Mary Quicke and her clothbound Cheddar and Yorkshire’s Shepherd’s Purse, one of the pioneers of ewe’s milk cheeses, this was no mousetrap fodder.*
I was lucky enough to be sent some samples of the new range and, over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at some of the cheeses in detail and using them to cook up some autumnal dishes. In the meantime, if you’re near a branch of Aldi, it’s definitely worth checking out their chiller cabinet. See what you can find, come back and let me know what you think. Happy hunting!
*Look out for cheeses from Trevarrian creamery, Swaledale and Belton too.