Christmas is about tradition, especially on the cheeseboard which, as everyone knows, is cheddar, stilton, brie and Wensleydale or Lancashire to go with the Christmas cake. This year I’ve decided to ring the changes with a few alternative suggestions and something funkier for the adventurous palate.
Winslade. Made by Stacey Hedges and Charlotte Spruce in Hampshire (pasteurised cow’s milk and vegetarian). Winslade’s plump white duvet of a rind overspills its spruce
band, which allows you to bake this soft cheese for a luxurious starter. Eaten au naturel, a creamy flavour with a hint of fresh greens is joined by a resinous note from the spruce – a great alternative to camembert or brie.
Sparkenhoe Red Leicester. Made by the Clarke family in Warwickshire (unpasteurised
cow’s milk and animal rennet). With its deep orange colour this cheese is the ultimate
winter warmer. Sparkenhoe brings all the depth and complexity of a traditional style. A firm fudgy texture delivers salted caramel, umami, earthiness and a toasted cheese finish. Perfect with Christmas cake.
Yarlington. Made by David Jowett, washed by Sam Wilkin in Tom Oliver’s Yarlington Cider (pasteurised cow’s milk and animal rennet). The terracotta rind with its dusting of white and the buttery oozing paste signal treats to come. Funky barnyard, umami and a
smoky finish are delivered by a rich mouth-coating texture with a light salty crunch on
Isle of Mull Cheddar. Made by the Reade family on the Isle of Mull (unpasteurised
cow’s milk and animal rennet). A pale straw colour shows this cheese’s origin, and its
difference from Somerset cheddar. The cows are fed on draff – the barley mash from
whisky-making – which gives that paler colour. Flavours include toasted cheese, a hint
of peat, a trace of smoke and a mild heat in the finish.
Cropwell Bishop Stilton. Make by Robin Skailes and his team in Nottinghamshire
(pasteurised cow’s milk, vegetarian rennet). Stilton is non-negotiable at Christmas, and this one’s a cracker. The restrained blue veining suggests balance, while the ivory paste and deep indigo of the blue itself denote profundity.