Soft Cheese Buyer’s Guide
Soft cheese, a very broad term encompassing a humongous and varied group of delicious cheeses. From mild to funky to washed rind, there’s a softy out there for everyone, even those who think it’s not for them!
First some FAQs on softies
Aren’t all soft cheeses French?
Though it’s true some of the most well known soft cheeses are french (think brie and camembert) Britain has tons of truly exquisite gooey goodens! Many, such as Baron Bigod (brie-style) and Tunworth (camembert-style) have even won over even the most stalwart of French purists...sacre bleu!
Why are soft cheeses soft?
The two key factors here are higher moisture in the curds, and less maturing time. Soft cheeses have a gooeyer texture because more moisture is allowed to remain in the curds during cheesemaking, and then they are eaten much fresher, meaning they have had less time maturing, and losing moisture. There are lots of other factors though that also contribute to the style of soft cheese including milk type, curd texture/shape/size, extra cultures being added and temperature of storing to name but a few.
Are all soft cheeses stinky?
No, not all soft cheeses are smelly. Some very famous softies do have a bit of a distinctive aroma like Epoisses or the aptly named Stinking Bishop. These orange, washed rind cheeses tend to be the pongiest, thanks to a bacteria called Brevibacterium Linens (B-Linens to his friends) which is encouraged during maturation. But soft cheeses can be fresh and lactic, rich and buttery and only in some cases...very smelly. It is also worth noting that often the smelliest cheeses taste far more mild than their aroma suggests, and even when they are very strong, avoiding the rind will reduce the big ‘punch-you-in-the-palate’ flavours that may not be for you.
So, here’s your sensational soft cheese buyer’s guide
For the ‘no soft for me’ers
We understand! You’ve tried far too many dull brie and cranberry sarnies that did nothing for your taste buds, and everything else is far too strong and smelly. Fear not, there are plenty of easy going softies that are still packed with character and subtle complexity that will have you singing “who am I to dis a-brie?!”
Winslade (Hampshire Cheese) -
This creamy little winner is made in the style of reblochon (don’t panic!) but without the punch of many french softs. Winslade is decadently rich, yet simultaneously fresh and floral with subtle notes of pine and spruce. Winny will convert even the hardest soft sceptics!
Wigmore (Village Maid) -
A loose interpretation of a brie but made with gorgeous sheep’s milk, Wigmore is the soft for you. Creamy yet light with none of the bitterness you get with some softs, wigmore will show you that there’s a softy out there for anyone!
For the ‘not too strong for me’ers
You're comfortable with brie style cheeses but anything beyond that is a little too unknown. You’ll gladly dip into that baked camembert but on a cheese board the softs are usually a swerve. We have some excellent selections for softies that will have you going back for more!
Waterloo (Village Maid) -
This buttery little number from our friends at Village Maid is a creamy delight. Oh so rich with subtle brie vibes and none of the scary funk, Waterloo will have you singing soft cheese praise and is perfect with a glass of something bubbly.
Baron Bigod (Fen Farm Dairy) -
So you think you don’t like Brie, Fen Farm will show you the light! Their barnstorming Baron Bigod is a perfect balance of rich butter and smooth mushroominess with none of the overpowering sharpness or saltiness of some bries. Baron will make you cry out ‘By God! I love it!’
Sinodun Hill (Norton & Yarrow) -
This little goaty goddess is the perfect step-up from a beginner in your soft cheese game. Sinodun has a velvety soft, almost moussy texture and a gorgeous subtle goaty tang with notes of citrus and gorgeous nuttiness.
For the ‘bring on the FUNK’ers
For you, the stinkier the better when it comes to softs. We might as well call you James Brown because you’re addicted to funk. Here are some showstoppers to knock your socks off!
Tunworth (Hampshire Cheese) -
Hampshire’s answer to a traditional camembert, Tunworth will have you questioning why you ever put up with the tasteless supermarket stuff. Decadently creamy with punchy funk that will leave you wanting more. Move over camembert!
Maida Vale (Village Maid)
This oh so buttery winner is washed in IPA during its maturation process. This technique gives Maida a punchy rind that balances beautifully with the creaminess of it’s interior. Enjoy, as you might expect, with an IPA.
Evenlode (Kingstone Dairy)
We’re going washed rind again but unlike Maida, Evenlode is just washed in a brine solution to get her powerful funk. The brine and the maturation process give Evenlode intense savoury flavours with meaty notes of broth and sometimes peanuts. Enjoy with a crisp cider or IPA.
Finally, as a general rule of thumb, any soft cheese is more mild the younger it is. For example, a Tunworth at 4 weeks is lactic, slightly citrus acidic, and very restrained. Take it another 4 weeks though, and by 8 weeks it is cabbagey, funky, meaty and an all-round party on your palate animal. So how do we know the age of our soft cheese? Simply look at the Best Before date, and count back...usually the Best Before will be on the nose 8 weeks.
So, whether you’re just starting out or a lover of funk, there’s a softy out there for everyone