Ok, my fellow Curd Nerds, this one’s for you.
Last Saturday, as a part of my day trip with Francesca to London’s Borough Market, we made a pilgrimage to the happiest place in the land of cheese: Neal’s Yard Dairy. Their Borough Market shop was in the perfect location for us to grab all the supplies we needed for a cheese picnic — and the shop itself turned out to be pure heaven.
Neal’s Yard Dairy has three shops in London, and they all focus on the same thing: bringing the delicious work of cheesemakers from the United Kingdom to our mouths. The cheeses they select, age, and sell are all farmhouse cheeses: all the milk comes from a single farm. (Kind of like the single malt Scotch of the cheese world! If you’re looking for French single farm cheeses, the French word to look for is fermier).
Immediately upon walking into the shop, we saw the floor-to-ceiling aging racks, where the cheeses are maturing to perfection:
And this lovely cheesemonger knew just what to say to get our attentions…
“Would you like to try some raw milk butter?”
And indeed, the Bungay Raw Butter from Fen Farm in Suffolk did not disappoint. In fact, I’ve been spoiled for butter evermore. Ohhhh so good.
We got to see & taste all the different cheese curds (the fresh milk solids — great for snacking!):
And onward, past the wheels of Parmesan cut to order:
…on, beyond the case of yogurt…
…and over to the land of happiness: the cheese counter!!!
Where we were met with stacks of local cheeses, perfectly ripe and ready to go home with us.
We may not have tasted everything, but man, did we get through a killer selection of the best the UK has to offer — starting with Rollright, a soft washed-rind cow’s milk cheese made in Oxfordshire. Not too strong, but with lots of milky & savoury flavours. Mmmmmmmm, a total winner!
Then onto something softer and gooier — Wigmore, made in Berkshire from sheep’s milk. This was a Brie-style cheese with a delicate milky, herby, floral flavour. I love when these soft cheeses are this ripe right next to the rind (at the spot we Curd Nerds call “the nail” — because these cheeses ripen from the outside-in, this part is always the gooiest!).
Onto something goaty… we found Tymsboro: made from raw goat’s milk (and an ash-covered rind) in Somerset. I like fresh-tasting goat cheeses, and this one was bright, milky, and salty with a bit of that stony/mineral goatiness.
Next we tried out the cheeses that reminded me more of the French Tommes, those cave-aged cheeses with the musty rinds that I love so much. These British cave-aged cheeses are Caerphilly, and we did a comparison tasting of Duckett’s Cairphilly versus Gorwydd Caerphilly. Both made in Somerset from raw cow’s milk, they were gorgeous cheeses. I could see putting these two together on a cheeseboard, and enjoying going back and forth between the different textures and flavours!
The buttery Kirkham’s Lancashire is the last farmhouse raw-milk Lancashire being made in the world today. It’s wrapped in cloth for aging:
We said hello to the Wall of Cheddar:
And in a nod to Wallace & Gromit, I had to try a bit of Whin Yeats Wensleydale:
And then… it was time for the main event: the blue cheeses.
Now, I am a major blue cheese fan. And at home, I’m lucky enough to get Colston Bassett Stilton by Neal’s Yard Dairy — which, in fact, was what got me to fall in love with Neal’s Yard Dairy before even setting foot in the shop.
So my entire purpose behind visiting Neal’s Yard Dairy was to try the Colston Bassett Stilton on site.
Now, Francesca is also a huge blue cheese fan. And she adores Stichelton.
So… let the official blue cheese battle begin!
In the one corner: Colston Bassett Stilton, from Nottinghamshire. And in the other corner: Stichelton, from Nottinghamshire!
Indeed, both Stilton and Stichelton are made in the same region, but by different cheesemakers. And there’s one great big difference between them: the Colston Bassett Stilton uses pasteurised cow’s milk, while the Stichelton uses raw cow’s milk. And as such, the process to make the Stichelton makes sure there aren’t as many blue veins in the cheese. This way the blue flavour doesn’t dominate the Stichelton, and you get all the sweet, caramely, nutty notes of the raw milk. It’s truly magical.
And the Colston Bassett Stilton? Well, it’s made to a special recipe just for Neal’s Yard Dairy: the curds are ladled by hand, there is “more reserved blue veining”, and it’s ripened longer than usual Stiltons. So it’s got a fruity flavour and a creamy paste.
Well… Francesca was surprised by how much she loved the Stilton. And I was surprised by how much I loved the Stichelton. And either alone would have made us each unbelievably happy. But you know when your heart has one true love? My heart loves the Colston Bassett Stilton.
At the end of the day? We bought both for our picnic. It was only fair.