A-Z of British cheeses
From Cheddar to Stilton, there’s a cheese for every occasion—and fortunately for us, an enormous variety of it is produced in Britain. This list covers the traditional cheeses and some of the modern classics.
A soft, buttery, full-cream cheese, Caboc is seldom seen south of Scotland. The cheese is rolled in toasted oatmeal and is best when eaten spread on biscuits without butter.
It is also perfect on cheeseboards or mixed with Drambuie or malt whisky for dessert. It pairs well with light red wines.
This crumbly white cheese from Wales has a mild, slightly tangy flavour. It is made from unpasteurised cow’s milk and matured anywhere from a week to a fortnight.
It pairs well with white wines and is perfect for grating or melting over dishes like pasta or pizza. Vegetarian varieties are available.
All varieties of Cheddar are labelled with their country of origin and a guide to strength, from mild to extra mature.
It is worth looking out for local Cheddars, produced on a smaller scale and usually rinded cheeses. They tend to be firmer and less ‘soapy’ than some of the run-of-the-mill Cheddars.
English Cheddar has a strong yellow colour and a close, creamy texture. It's full, nutty flavour, which varies in strength, makes it a good all-purpose cheese. English Cheddar is at its best at six months old.
Scottish Cheddar has a firmer texture than English and often a stronger flavour.
The oldest known British cheese, Cheshire is crumbly with a mild, mellow and slightly salty taste. It's available in red and white colours.
Blue Cheshire is produced when an edible blue mould is added to the freshly made curd—it is deeply veined with a strong flavour and slightly creamy texture.
Image via Lynher Dairies
A mild, pale hard cheese with a slightly tangy taste. The cheese is wrapped in nettles producing a dark grey-black rind.
The Cornish dairy farmers who discovered this recipe named it Yarg—a reversal of the letters of the name of the former owner—in a bid for a more Cornish sounding name.
A soft cheese from the Scottish Highlands. Crowdie is made from skimmed milk and enriched with cream, carrying a texture similar to cottage cheese, but finer.
It is a low-fat, sour tasting cheese, and occasionally flavoured with herbs. Crowdie is traditionally eaten before a ceilidh, often with oatcakes, to alleviate the effects of whisky.
This is a honey-coloured and close-textured cheese with a buttery flavour. Derby cheese is allowed to mature for up to six months and during this time, its mild, distinctive flavour develops to the full.
The most popular variety is Sage Derby, which is flavoured and coloured with the herb.
Image via Cheese Stall
Vegetable colouring gives this firm, smooth, mature cheese a rich golden hue. Made from the milk of Gloucester cattle and matured for between three and six months, it has a clean buttery flavour.
Double Gloucester is often blended with other ingredients, or even layered with Stilton into Huntsman cheese.
A moist Scottish cheese, rather like English Cheddar but with a softer texture and usually milder. It has the colour of pale butter. Dunlop is good for grilling and pairs well with whisky.
It is often made using vegetarian rennet, making it suitable for vegetarians. A smoked variety is also available.
A layered cheese, with Double Gloucester sandwiching a layer or three of Stilton. The dual composition makes it a difficult to cook with, but it is perfect for cheeseboards.
It works well in a ploughman’s lunch, matched with a strong ale. Huntsman cheese is also known as Stilchester.
Image via Costco
This crumbly, pale coloured cheese has a mild, yet rich, and slightly salty flavour. Made and matured by traditional methods, Lancashire can be quite buttery, but the majority is not matured to this extent.
When melted, it maintains a smooth, even consistency, making it excellent for cheese-on-toast or rarebit.
A mild cheese, a true Leicester is characterised by its fine grainy texture. Red Leicester has vegetable colouring added. Leicester cheese is versatile and works well as a Cheddar alternative.
It also works particularly well in sauces because it melts very smoothly, but also adds colour and flavour to salads and cheese boards.
Low-fat soft cheese
There is a wide variety of cheese in this category, including ‘spreading’ soft cheeses which can be useful in cooking.
However, note the difference between a ‘low-fat soft cheese’ and a ‘low-fat cheese spread’ as the latter may have starch added and it will probably have a different taste. A spread with starch will also behave differently in cooking.
Image via Golden Girl OK
A serious blue cheese, with a dark veining of blue in a rich, golden cheese, which began as a Scottish interpretation of Stilton cheese. The result is mature, powerful, but soft textured.
The addition of annatto (a natural food colouring) to the milk gives it its orange hue.
Between the distinctive patches of slate-blue mould, Stilton is a rich creamy colour, with a slightly acidic flavour, when mature. Good Stilton is available throughout the year and has a distinctive ‘musty’ blue flavour which is unmatched by any other blue cheese.
Production is protected and carefully regulated by members of the Stilton Cheesemakers’ Association. White Stilton is also available—it has a mild, slightly tangy flavour.
A Welsh cheese with a deep golden interior. It is similar in texture to Gouda and enclosed in a pale wax rind. When mature, Teifi has a full, rich flavour and a smooth texture.
There are smoked versions or varieties flavoured with herbs or spices, such as cumin or peppercorns.
Blue Wensleydale. Image via Cheese Stall
Crumbly in texture, Wensleydale is a pale cheese from Yorkshire. It is consistently mild in taste and is traditionally served with apple pie. Wensleydale was originally a blue cheese and a blue variety is available.
Young Wensleydale is often blended with cranberries and other ingredients due to its creamy freshness.
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