Tag Archives: cheese history

Cheese-Rolling on Cooper’s Hill

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I grew up in the sort of place where young men were not afraid to Morris Dance. Similarly somewhere, in the forgotten bowels of local press archives, there may be a photograph of me dressed as a Victorian wench, holding a scabby old stuffed monkey. If there was a local tradition that involved dressed up strangely and behaving oddly, we were all out on the streets like moths to the proverbial flame. So I was almost tempted by the annual cheese-rolling extravaganza at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire. Rolling down a grassy slope whilst probably under the influence of alcohol? Oh yeah, been there, done that.
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May Day Frittata with Hawthorn Leaf Garnish

roasted squash and goat's cheese frittata with hawthorn leaves

It’s May Day this week which has, it turns out, more associations with cheese than you can shake a Morris dancer’s jingly-jangly stick at. Sharing a lineage with the ancient Celtic and Gaelic festivals of Bealltainn, the date traditionally marked the start of the summer season. Cows and sheep were taken up to graze the fresh pastures and milking started again (milking was a ‘May to Michaelmas’ affair back in the seasonal mists of time). Finally the ‘white meats’ (milk, butter and cheese) were back on the menu following the lean winter months.
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Les Greedy Cochons Raclette Night

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Almost a year ago, when I’d been blogging about cheese for just a few weeks, I was invited to a Fondue Secret Supper Club by a North London couple called Les Greedy Cochons. It felt terribly daring at the time, partly because it was in the badlands i.e. north of the river and partly because Secret Supper Clubs sounded far too hip for the likes of me, who hadn’t been out for the best part of a year since I had my youngest baby. I was most definitely not feeling like a hipster.
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Cotherstone

Selecting which cheese to try next is always a fairly random occasion. Sometimes I like the name (Baron BIGOD!), sometimes I like the history (Single Gloucester PDO), sometimes I feel guilty about not eating cheese from a particular area (Teifi) and sometimes, if I am feeling particularly organised, I try and tie it in to an occasion (Caboc). But, feeling devoid of inspiration a few weeks ago, I put out a plaintive call on Twitter for cheese suggestions. One was from someone who works at Neal’s Yard Dairy who suggested Cotherstone because ‘It’s a great cheese, often overlooked and pretty rare…May not be around for ever either. Go grab some!’ I then heard it described as ‘the closest that British cheese-making has to a living fossil’. All in all, it sounded like a cheese to hunt down.

Here it is, the shy, retiring, winsome beauty that is Cotherstone:

Cotherstone cheese

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Single Gloucester PDO

Some cheeses come with such a history and pedigree that I’m almost afraid to try them in case they taste like dust or tom cat’s spray. And so it was with this week’s cheese which manages to combine coming back from the dead with gaining the coveted PDO status and being cheese-sibling of ‘Britain’s smelliest cheese.’ It also has the distinction of being the nicest-smelling cheese I’ve yet to come across. If this cheese were a person, I’d be handing them a big red book and so, in the style of Michael Aspel (or Eamonn Andrews if you’ve got a couple of years on me): ‘Single Gloucester, This Is Your Life’…

Single Gloucester PDO Charles Martell
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Lanark Blue

After I broke my Scottish cheese duck last week with Caboc, I’m on a roll as this week’s cheese also hails from north of the border (or The Borders, to be precise). But this week’s cheese could not be more different from last week’s. If Caboc is mild and inoffensive, the Balamory of Scottish cheese, Lanark Blue is – Scottish cliché alert – the Braveheart of cheeses. It’s fierce, blue and has certainly faced battle in its time.

So, here is Lanark Blue, seeking freedom from its foil:

Lanark Blue
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Lacto-Fermented Vegetables with Dill

lacto-fermented vegetables with whey

It’s fair to say that on hearing about Miss Muffett’s troubles, most people don’t give much thought to the whey that’s mentioned. (Or indeed the curds; I think most of us are thinking about the prospect of a great hairy arachnid landing on us.) But when you realise that to produce one kilo of cheese it takes about ten litres of milk and you’re therefore left with nine litres of whey, you can start to ponder about what happens to it all.
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