Top 10 Christmas cheeses of all time
We honestly believe that cheese is the ultimate seasonal produce, with even the same cheeses tasting very different depending on what time of year you eat them. Christmas is no different, and we’ve rounded up the cheeses that we not only think taste great at this time of year, but that also carry all the tradition of Christmas. Here is our countdown of the 10 most important Christmas cheeses of all time, along with a suggestion of what to pair them with! Get your cheeseboards at the ready...
Coming in at No.10 on our all-time must have Xmas cheeses is the luxurious, decadent, mousse-textured beauty that is Pave Cobble. 2017 Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards, this is an ash-coated, pyramid shaped cheese made from sheep’s milk that gives such incredible variation in terms of taste, appearance and texture to any Christmas cheeseboard. Drizzled with a little bit of honey, which just cuts through the creaminess and balances the bite from the ashen rind, this will have you and your guests grinning with pleasure around the Christmas table.
Pairing Tip: A robust red wine, and some Red Onion & Port Chutney.
A gouda-style cheese made by Mike Smales on the edge of the New Forest, this is a wonderfully complex, aged cheese, matured for over 16 months, and carrying a trilogy of tasting vibes…mature cheddar, gouda and parmesan. The cheddar tang gets you up front, then comes a wave of crunchy, salty, meatiness that is so reminiscent of an aged Parmigiano Reggiano, and finally a super-smooth, dare I say nutty, sweet Gouda finish. This is about as wintery as a cheese gets, and the lovely orange hue this cheese carries (a natural dye called annatto) provides beautiful colour to any Christmas cheeseboard. The festive volume gets dialled up when you pair this with a bold red (like our Shiraz!), leaving roasted chestnuts and smoky fireplace. This is the closest a cheese will get to giving you a big, Christmassy hug.
Pairing tip: Christmas Pudding!
No, we haven’t lost our mind, we did just suggest pairing cheese with Christmas Pudding! First of all, Kirkham’s Lancashire. We were terribly torn when picking a British territorial cheese to represent on this list, and Appleby’s Cheshire and Old Roan Wensleydale were close runners, but Kirkham’s got the nod. The last remaining traditional, raw-milk Lancashire made in the world, by Graham Kirkham, this has everything a great Lancashire should have. An incredible, slightly moist, crumbly texture, like the base of a cheesecake, and carrying flavours all the way from tangy, yoghurt farminess to buttery decadence. But more than just being a great cheese, it represents a slice of both cheesemaking history and tradition in the UK, as well as a reminder of how important it is to support these multi-generational, family cheesemakers. To top it off, you are very likely to have this cheese, and a Christmas pudding on the same table at some point over the festive period…and the epic win is that they pair perfectly together. Give it a try…you won’t be disappointed!
Pairing: Melt. This. Cheese. (Ok fine, not strictly a pairing suggestion!)
At number 7 is Ogleshield, which is a Raclette-style, washed-rind melting cheese made in Somerset by the Montgomery family (of the world-famous Montgomery’s cheddar). Whilst not strictly a cheeseboard cheese (although I am almost certain it would dazzle even the most discerning cheese enthusiasts), Ogleshield comes to life when melted, and what is more festive than stringy, perfectly melting cheese lathered over potatoes/bread/[enter any carbohydrate here]. That’s before we even discuss the perfect fondue recipe (that’s right, Ogleshield is in there!). As a cheeseboard cheese though, Ogleshield is supple, dense and carries a lovely funky kick from the rind, which balances nicely with the relatively mild and creamy interior.
Pairing: Spoon liberally onto a fresh baguette, or bake with some white wine, garlic and rosemary
Looking for a British equivalent to Reblochon? Look no further. Rollright has all the rich, buttery flavour and silky smooth texture you could want but it doesn’t stop there. Wrapped in spruce bark for that extra injection of festive feels and added hint of woodiness and slightly more manageable than a whole Reblochon (250g to yourself in one sitting? Why not, it’s Christmas!) Versatile too - leave it to ripen fully and you can take off it’s top and spoon it out, you can spread it on bread, bake in the oven, melt it over potatoes, or add it to a fondue for a little extra luxury - it’s the cheese that does it all! DJ at Kingstone really knew what he was doing when he added this little wonder to his line up - so dig in and let the good times roll(right)!
Pairing: Cherry and Amaretto chutney
Christmas isn’t Christmas without Comté right? Right. We love our British cheeses at cheesegeek but there are a few European varieties out there that just can’t be improved upon - and Comté holds the crown in this category. Sweet, rich and nutty with added crunch crystals from the extra maturation (it spends almost 2 years building up to its big debut on the cheeseboard!) We’ve tried a fair few Comtés in our time and source ours from the best in the biz. The ultimate crowd pleaser earning it’s spot in our Christmas cheeseboard lineup - enjoy with a little cherry and amaretto jam to pump up those fruity festive vibes - or if you can sneak some away it adds a touch of luxury to your cauliflower cheese! The kind of cheese that you can guarantee everyone will enjoy - if you’re quick enough!
Pairing: Red Onion & Port Chutney, Pinot Noir
We really are reaching the business end now, and at 4th place is the 2019 best Cheddar in the world, best British cheese in the world, and all-round barnstorming, new kid on the block, Pitchfork. The fourth of only four traditional, raw milk cheddars being made in Somerset (historic cheddar-country) the Trethowan brothers have managed to produce a masterful cheddar in record time. Aged for at least 12 months, and made from the milk of both Holstein-Friesian and Jersey cows, this is a cheddar that carries big flavour, but retains a perfect balance and poise whilst it captivates your tastebuds. A great cheddar is the backbone of any great cheeseboard, and Pitchfork is a great cheddar, combining the most traditional methods of cheddar making, whilst incorporating little touches of innovation that make this, in our view, the best cheddar in the world.
Pairing: bubbles, bubbles, bubbles (this cheese needs a cheers!)
Okay, if we’re going to talk about Christmas cheese, let's get down to one of those most decadent cheeses out there. Baron Bigod is already an absolute worldie - gooey, rich and buttery with classic Brie De Meaux flavours. It’s in our fridges year round and can find a home at almost any occasion. So, I can hear you asking - what more could it need? Well ‘need’ it doesn’t, but is there a better time for ‘why not’ than at Christmas? The clever clogs at Fen Farm realised they could take a Baron Bigod, slice it open, and fill it with a rich mascarpone and summer truffle cream mix before putting it back together, leaving this worldie to become an out-of-this-worldie. It’s self explanatory - rich, creamy, buttery, truffley goodness - what are you waiting for? Treat yourself, it’s Christmas!
Pairing: Pear & Brandy Chutney, and a glass/bottle of robust red
When is a Stilton not a Stilton? When it’s Stichelton. Let’s pick the bones out of that. In 1989, the last batch of raw milk Stilton was made by Colston Bassett creamery, and since then all Stilton has been pasteurised (and legally has to be). This shift signalled the end of truly traditional Stilton-making until Joe Schneider, in collaboration with Randolph Hodgson, and the Welbeck Estate, decided to bring a raw milk Stilton back to the market. Unfortunately, due to PDO regulations, they are unable to call it Stilton, and hence Stichelton was (and is) their creation. Ironically, this is the most traditional Stilton-style blue cheese you will find (arguably alongside Sparkenhoe Blue) and of course is Christmas really Christmas without Stilton (hint: NO!). Stichelton is everything you would want from a great blue cheese. It has a salty punch from the blue veining, and all those Stilton-style notes, from spiciness through to minerality. But what it also has is character beyond the blue, from the milk itself. This might manifest in roasted peanuts, cake mix, chocolate cookies, beef stock and even the most subtle hint of fermented fruit. The layers go deep, as does the expression of the land at the Welbeck Estate, and the cows that graze that land. This is what Christmas is all about. Stichelton. We salute you.
Pairing: Spoon it, lather on sourdough crispbread, drizzle it in honey, thank yourself
Nothing, not even Stilton, quite says Christmas like Vacherin (or Mont D’or if on the French side of the border). That’s because, this is the ultimate seasonal cheese, available only when the Montbeliarde cows come down from their summer alpine meadows to hunker down for the winter. On winter hay, and moving around less, they yield less milk (not enough traditionally to make the huge Comte wheels that their milk makes during the summer) but it is far richer. So perfect for making the world-famous, intensely velvety and decadent Vacherin. The cows come down in late August (sometimes they even get airlifted by helicopter…proper VIP treatment), and the cheese is made and matured for 5 weeks minimum, meaning Vacherin is available only between September and April (when they go back out). The cheeses are so gooey and runny that they are wrapped in spruce, which also serves to impart the most wonderful woody, smokey sweet flavour to the cheese, perfect foil for the rich creaminess. If you could swim in a cheese, it would probably be Vacherin, and nothing says Christmas quite like it. If you want to bake it, you certainly can, but we love it as it is, with a spoon.
If you’ve got the very important job of organising the festive cheeseboard this year, worry not - you’re in safe hands. These 10 cheeses are not only guaranteed crowd pleasers, but the absolute top of their game at Christmas and will impress even the most discerning of cheese-loving relatives. Tis the season - so fill your basket (and your boots) and sit back, relax and let the cheese do the talking. Merry Christmas cheesegeeks!