Comfort Food is Calling

Maybe it’s just that time of year.  But it seems to me that comfort food is calling louder and clearer than at any other time. What does it mean for you?  And does that change throughout the year? While you might have that pizza feeling or, that sweet desire for something (read anything!) made out of chocolate – does the season change that inner need to connect with something sweet and sticky, or even chewy and carbilicious? What about the fruit attacks or the Spring-like desire to shake off the winter stodge and embrace the love of a sparkling fresh salad?

But here, right now, with winter not yet quite done, what does comfort food really mean to you?  Surely grabbing a plate or bowl of your favourite something is not just about filling up!   Could it be about satisfying the senses as well as the belly?

I came home wearily the other day to find that our just about teenage daughter – not often known for a love of domestic duties – had run up a tray of fudge brownies. Just like that. Soft, meltingly chewy, gooey and above all oozing chocolate.

Chocolate brownies

It was perfect comfort food and a perfect foodie moment. and made all the better for her using some serious cocoa percentage chocolate. All of which made me think; Comfort food is about satisfying senses as well as the stomach and means using quality ingredients that taste super fantastic.

Comforting as feel-good chocolate may be. What about those savoury moments? Leaving the ubiquitous pizza to one side – what about an epic mac and cheese? it’s not just that it is relatively straightforward and easy to make, but it is heartwarmingly, meltingly good. And from the heart, we can tell you, that if you skimp on the quality of the cheddar you are missing out!

Macaroni and Cheese - Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co

Plastic supermarket cheddar might well melt just as easily – but a seriously good cheddar such as our classic Vintage will melt your heart. Not only do you need less cheese – but it takes your humble mac n cheese into the taste stratosphere – seriously satisfying those senses.

Then again – who said comfort food had to be sweet or heavy?   Spring, surely can’t be far away now and then we’ll be onto a different form of craving. Yes, those tantalising tingling salads, fruit or otherwise will be calling out. Fresh and light, zingy and colourful.  Cleansing us inside and out.

Fresh fruit

Sometimes you just have to listen to your heart and give in to your cravings. So, whatever your senses are crying out for this weekend – why not give into them – with an extra bit of love and taste gratification?

Let Them Eat Cheese Cake

There didn’t seem to be a lot of Christmas cake around the table this year. Personally, I didn’t miss it but then I have to confess that I never really liked it that much. Asking around, the consensus here is that Christmas cake, as in heavily booze-soaked fruitcake, marzipan and icing with a plastic Santa on the top and a ribbon around the side is, well, a little bit passé.

That may not be the case for everybody, but the fact is, tastes and fashions do change . Truth is there wasn’t even any room for Christmas pudding around our table this year, and nobody really seemed that bothered.

Wedding Cakes

It’s not just the poor old Christmas cake that is getting short shrift.  Weddings are getting a makeover too. There’s been a move away from the traditional wedding venue as in Registry offices and churches. Now couples are tying the knot throwing themselves out of planes (with parachutes), underwater, and on any beach they can find.

under water wedding

The traditional wedding cake has also been taking a battering (not deep fried, though someone must have tried at some point). There is still however demand for something celebratory on special occasion. And a certain type of cheese cake is standing up to be counted. This is not the baked or frozen cheese cake either but a genuine tiered cake. As in ascending layers of delicious cheeses, the foundation of which is most often a whopping great disc of fabulous cheddar.

Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company Wedding Cake

And up we go with a Shropshire Blue perhaps or a Stilton. There are Bries and Cornish Yarg, small wheels of Camembert and basically anything that is round, well cheesy (some are even interspersed with pork pies!)

And it’s not just weddings. In fact, Cheese Cakes are becoming a hit wherever hungry and thirsty people want a celebration. Be it birthday, anniversary, graduation, or reunion and want to make a statement and feed a whole bunch of merry guests. Who, with all that celebrating might not just fancy fruitcake. And what really goes better with wine, cider or beer than gorgeous cheese, carved up with crackers, pickles and whatever else you fancy?

Cheese and pie wedding cake

Cheddar Gorge Cheese Cakes

Of course, we are biased. We’re delighted too. It’s a celebration of great cheese and you can start with us, and we’ll talk you through the process and deliver the whole thing to your door. We make the best cheddar in the world and that gets anyone’s cheese cake off to a flying start and a solid foundation . The rest is entirely up to you. But it’s good to know that it is entirely possible these days to have your cake and eat it. Especially with crackers and pickles, not to mention a little glass of something.

Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company Cake with wine and fruit

Wine, Cider or Beer? Accompaniments for Your Cheese

With the cheese season well and truly underway, our thoughts turn to the beautiful meals, banquets and super snacks we will be serving and hopefully enjoying through the dark nights and long festive evenings.

Cheese, wine and meats

Matching and pairing your cheese with a perfectly balanced accompanying drink not only makes sense, but it can also actually enhance the experience and taste of both beverage and of course, your delicious cheese.

Pairing is not just about wine – the range of craft beers and ciders on the market mean that there is something out there to suit every taste. Luckily the same few wise guidelines (and let’s be honest – no two palates are the same) apply to wine, cider as well as beer.

And if it’s true ‘terroir’ you are chasing, there is a very good reason both cider and Cheddar come from Somerset – apple trees and rich pasture both like rain! And if it is a perfect accompaniment you are seeking, then cheddars true bedfellow might just be cider.

Cheese and wine

Choose your beverage

Two basic tips seem to help when matching beverage and cheese.

Tip number one is that bold wines, beers and ciders are a good choice with aged cheese such as our Mature and Vintage Cheddars. Big bold wines steeped in tannins like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec for example. Cider wise, look for dryer styles, even oak aged ciders, for example, will stand up well to stronger flavoured Cheddars. Beer lovers – look to fresh and hoppy IPA’s or a full-bodied Belgian style beer.

Cheese, crackers and drinks

Our Cave Matured has softer notes but still brings big flavours. You can pair this stunning Cheddar with reds that are a little less robust. Pinot Noir is an excellent example. Chardonnay’s oaked or otherwise can make a good bedfellow.  Cider wise, look for big apple flavours – medium dry. Lighter beers, pale lagers or wheat beers make perfect sense.

Choose your cheese

Tip number two is that funkier cheeses go very well with sweeter drinks. Oak Smoked, (albeit not funky!) sings with a delicate smoky sweetness and here you can have a lot of fun making your match work.  Shiraz or a slightly sweeter red is a lovely starting point. Merlot also works well. Darker beers, rich and sticky start to make sense and crisper sweeter ciders big and heavy with apples are just perfect.

This is where Port comes into its own, along with sweeter wines and ciders – there are some lovely rich fermented ciders that are a match for Port. Pilton’s Fire and Ice range proved really popular when we had a recent tasting here in the shop.

Stouts and rich dark beers are a perfect foil for a salty creamy blue. Our Natural Blue Cheddar fits in here perfectly or, why not make the most of our Especially Strong? It’s about as Funky as a Cheddar gets and is definitely robust.

When it comes down to it, pairing is a matter of personal taste.  If you really wanted one drink that would go with just about anything, you might be pleased to note that Champagne is that drink! And we’ll definitely drink to that.

 

A Big Fat Cheesy Welsh Rarebit Autumn Recipe Special

Getting to know your Welsh Rarebit

  • Welsh Rarebit or Welsh Rabbit is a dish made with a savoury sauce of melted cheese and various other ingredients and served hot, after being poured over slices (or other pieces) of toasted bread. Or the hot cheese sauce may be served in a bowl accompanied by sliced, toasted bread.
  • Welsh rarebit is typically made with Cheddar cheese, in contrast to the Continental European fondue which classically depends on Swiss cheeses.
  • Various recipes for Welsh rarebit include the addition of ale, mustard, ground cayenne pepper or ground paprika and Worcestershire sauce.

Welsh Rarebit/Rabbit or Perfectly Posh Cheese on Toast

Its origin lies in Wales and stretches back hundreds of years. It has very little to do with rabbit as the name suggests, much in the way that Toad in the Hole contains virtually no toad.

It might have something to do with a lack of poachable rabbits for a dish. And instead, cheese becomes a tasty base for this toasty wonderment. However, Cheese on Toast it is not, and purists will turn purple at the thought of confusing the two!

Nevertheless, no one can deny the dish requires both toast and cheese and fulfils all the requirement of a tasty, quick and let’s face it, relatively cheap supper. So here, in the spirit of something warm and comforting this Autumn is the result of our research and trial and tasting…

Our Definitive Welsh Rarebit Recipe

  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 50g/2oz plain flour
  • 100ml stout/dark beer
  • 225g/8oz strong Cheddar grated
  • 1tsp English Mustard
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 slices thick granary/sourdough/wholemeal bread
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. Stir and cook for one minute.
  2. Whisk in beer, a little at a time, until you have a thick and smooth sauce.
  3. Add cheese, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Toast bread under a grill on both sides.
  5. Spread sauce over bread making sure all edges are covered.
  6. Grill until bubbling and golden brown.

ENJOY!

Welsh Rabbit

Make the Perfect Picnic Easy

Summer is well and truly underway as even a cursory peep out the window will tell you. It is certainly hotter and drier than it has been for long while. Lest we forget, last year we were bailing out tents and suffering wet and windy downpours. It seems hard to imagine now. The truth is, as a result and quite suddenly, our lifestyles are having to adapt.

Most markedly this means a longer amount of time spent enjoying an outdoor lifestyle, perhaps in the garden or patio, eating and drinking and socialising. We’re heading for the parks, countryside or the coast more and seeking out the refreshing cool of water, on our version of the Mediterranean or Californian coast, heading out to Weston, Wales or further down into the West Country.

Al Fresco is truly here… 

All of which means ‘alfresco’ (Al fresco – in the open air) eating is becoming the norm. But who wants to spend hours preparing a picnic in the kitchen, packing everything except the sink and lugging it to our destination?

Make picnics light and easy by choosing simple things that work well together and minimize all the fuss and bother (not to mention less rubbish).

Picnic with cheese, wine and bread

Cheese and Wine – the perfect partners!

A basic wine and cheese picnic ticks all the satisfaction boxes and even adds a note of luxury to the adventure. Well, it’s a little more out there than a hard boiled egg, cress sandwich and a few warm crisps!

Take cheese and wine down to the bare essentials and what more do you need than a baguette, some tasty cheese and a bottle of something to accompany it with?

Of course here in Cheddar land we would advocate a portion of some of our scrummy Vintage or Cave Matured Cheddar. Oak smoked cheddar is also a firm picnic favourite. Our smallest picnic hampers come with Red Onion and Tomato and Cider and Garlic although you could in fact, choose any portion you like. Along with the cheddar, why not a brie?  Perhaps some blue would make an excellent trio. Of course it’s up to you. As for the bread, choose a good baguette that has a crusty crunch and a lovely soft and chewy inside although surely any good artisan loaf will hit the spot.

basket of fresh bread

Which Wine?

As for the wine – it seems that everybody has their opinion on what suits different types of cheese. But bold flavours and sharp cool wines that are big on the acidity, accompany a good rich cheese so well. So let’s hear it for the Pinot’s, Noir and Gris. Try a juicy and zesty rose or a soothing Zinfandel. The dry citrusy notes of a Sauvignon Blanc also hit the spot.

Heading out of town and a river running close by? Take a tip from Ernest Hemingway who suspended his white wine in the cool of the river while working up a thirst! Lest we forget, here in Cider Country, we have beautiful zesty craft ciders that make perfect partners for our lovely cheeses.

Cheese and drink pairings

As for the rest.

You might like some butter, a pickle or two but why complicate it? Some crackers add a nice crunch. Summer fruit is the way to go for a sweet finish. Grapes, cherries in season though try and avoid fruit that is too soft or likely to dissolve into a sticky mess before you get around to cleansing the palate.

Take an insulated cool box with you complete with ice packs to keep everything nice and cool. Or how about this handy tip?  Freeze up your juice cartons or plastic water bottles. They’ll make great ice packs and be the perfect temperature when you arrive at your chosen spot.

Whatever you do and wherever you go, have a wonderful adventure accompanied by a delicious, easy to prepare picnic. What better way to enjoy a glorious summer in our magnificent countryside!

 

Why Does Winning Cheese Awards Matter?

In stepping up this week and last to the metaphysical podium, it’s no secret, especially to those who make, love and follow our small company’s cheese related stories, that we have scooped more than a handful of prizes at The Devon County Show and latterly at the British Cheese Awards 2018. Hooray!

Devon County Show Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co

Cheese Awards

Then there was last year’s World Cheese Awards, not to mention The Global Cheese Awards coming up this September… and if you’ve ever entered our shop down here in Cheddar you will have seen a wall full of ribbons and certificates. You’d think that winning any more would mean significantly less but in fact, the opposite is true, and here’s why.

We don’t make cheese to win awards. We make the best cheese we can everyday, by hand and no one can ever tell exactly what that cheese is going to taste like in six months, one year or in two years time.  So, it’s very gratifying when our cheese wins a gold, silver or bronze. It means that we are selling our customers, award-winning and nationally acclaimed cheese. In fact, some of the best cheddar in the country. And of that, we are extremely proud.

Cheese Awards are judged by professionals. They might judge or taste hundreds of cheeses in a category or show. Awards are judged by smell and taste. As one recent judge commented, ‘a good cheese should make you smile and set itself apart from the rest of the competition.’ There is experience at work here and well informed judgement.

Awards help many people understand why our good quality home produced cheeses are some of the best in the world, and miles away from the cheaply produced, industrialised cheddar cheese that so many of us were brought up tasting.

Devon Country Show Prizes Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co Trophy

Cheese craftsmanship

Awards are an accolade for the Cheese Makers, whose hands on craft, judgement and sheer hard work happens every day. Come rain or shine. That is long, hot, hard and heavy work in the dairy. Trust us, they care! And the award is an accolade for them and for every member of our team . Especially those who stand in the shop every day offering tasters and explaining why the cheese tastes like it does.

British Cheese Awards - Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co

And finally – awards are for the Spencers. They built and crafted this business into a world recognised producer of artisan Cheddar. This enables us to stand beside and hold our head up with the handful of genuine producers of Traditional Cheddar Cheese in the South West.

And no, we can never rest on our laurels, because the cheese we make today will only win awards in one and two years time. If we keep our eye on the ball and strive to work hard every day to ensure that is the case.

Somerset Day is Coming

I’ll be perfectly honest, I married into Somerset.  Before that I just had it down as a pleasant place you passed through on the way to somewhere else.  It’s hard to imagine now, working at the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co, how much my view of the world has changed. In particular, I am pleased to say, I have enjoyed experiencing Somerset coming into its own as a destination in its own right.  This place has a real sense of itself and I have been happily tuning in over the years to the value, spirit, initiative and the beauty that is all around.

From Exmoor to Wells, and from Glastonbury to Bath and through the lanes and across the marshes, wetlands and Levels. For every artisan cheese, charcuterie and cider maker, through the misty celebration of each season, (does anywhere do mornings and evenings better?)  It seems to me, more and more – though I am sure it has always been so, that Somerset is indeed a rare jewel.

Upcoming Events In Somerset

Well celebration time is truly here. If you’re from Somerset you might have heard of a little party dreaming big, called ‘Somerset Day’. We are delighted to say that we are helping to kick it off.  There’s so much to get involved in the coming week.  Check out the Somerset Day website for a full list of what is on offer. From ‘Made in Somerset’ to the start of The Great Somerset Tea Party, in aid of St Margaret’s Hospice Care.

There’s the chance in the “World Cup of Somerset”. Where you can tweet #WCoSomerset to rate the one thing you love best about Somerset. We might be biased and obviously there is more to Somerset than our fabulous cheese. After all, there is cider!

Speaking of which, we’ll be at the amazing Wincanton Races on the Thursday 1oth for their Cheese and Cider night.  Understanding it’s not all about us, we are proudly sharing the ground with a top selection of the best cheese makers and cider producers in the county. Why not make an evening of it?  That way you can enjoy at least three of the delightful things that make Somerset such a fabulous county to work, live and play in.  It might make picking a winner, a bit less of a gamble.

Not wanting to leave out the amazing creatives that are studded throughout Somerset, we are proud to be helping Somersetcool at the launch of “Picture Somerset” with artist Donna Vale at “For Every Cloud” Gallery, Langport. There must be talent to watch here, with over 2,500 entries!

You might say there is something for everyone in Somerset. And you could also add there may well be something for everyone in Somerset in Somerset Day!

Down on the Dairy Farm

Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company dairy cows

There was a lowing mood down on the dairy farm this week when we popped along to take a look at the ‘lovely girls’ who do the real hard work so we can all enjoy the benefits. It was also a great chance for us to catch up with and appreciate the farmers. John and Edward, who actually do the other part of the hard work. Milking a 140 cow herd twice a day. 4.30 am start anybody?

The truth is we had been hoping to catch the cows out in the pasture. But like everyone else in the country, we have been subject to the incessant rain and cold. So much so that the pasture has been slow coming on and the ground underfoot as we squelched our way across the beautiful acres of the farm told a wet and muddy story.

Cows from Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company dairy
Dairy Farm Tour

Anyhow, it was great to get the wellies on and get acquainted with the herd again. They were a little shy in coming forward – although curiosity got the better of them eventually. Katherine and John naturally, were as always, curious as to the ‘hows and whys’ and the technical side of how we get our milk as fresh, raw and as natural as possible each morning. So when our delivery comes, it is literally, fresh from the farm, so to speak. Their questions are never about how do we maintain excellence in our cheese BUT always, how do we make it better?

Once we’d had a meet and greet with the herd, we had a tour of the unploughed pastures. There’s more science in the soil than any of us really understand, with the exception of Farmer John, who picked us a blade of grass and said, “what you have to imagine, is that this is a solar panel…”

 

And who could be failed to be moved by the misty silhouette of Glastonbury Tor on one side and the Spires of Wells Cathedral on the other?  Perhaps the cows take it for granted but standing high on the hill with such a view of glorious Somerset spreading out on each side, you can appreciate that what John and Edward are doing is something very special in a very special place.

Delicious, fresh milk

The milk we then make into award-winning cheddar would not be possible, were it not for the hard work and passion that the farm puts in and the herd delivers daily. We were humbled. Perhaps never more so than sipping a welcome milky coffee in the farmhouse kitchen and standing on the original flagstones. They were there when the farm made its own cheese back in the day. In fact, John and Edward’s Father can remember cheese being made here. By the women, of course.

 

We couldn’t help wondering what the cheddar tasted like then. It is now produced by hand in the belief and understanding that this is how Cheddar used to taste and how it should taste. That is why Spencers and crew, cows and farmers were all there down on the farm watching the magic begin. Wishing the cows would soon be out there munching their way through true Somerset pasture once again. Does it make a difference?

You bet it does.

Putting a Spring in Our Step

.Spring in Cheddar Gorge

The weather is milder – well sometimes! and the crocuses are out. In Cheddar Gorge there is a hopeful note of Spring in the air. It may be something to do with the sap rising but we are embracing the need to get out and about.

Bitton Women’s Institute

It started on Monday night at Bitton Women’s Institute. Head honcho John Spencer (what he doesn’t know about cheese isn’t worth knowing) was invited to speak to the gathering about the story behind the making of our cheese.  And speak he did, to the very attentive women of Bitton.

To be fair, we were ‘winging’ it a little. Having prepared an extensive Power Point on the subject, including some interesting hieroglyphics of Ancient Egyptians making cheese. We were somewhat caught out by the unfurling of an old school screen, for our ‘projector’.

Cheese hieroglyphics

For the best part of an hour John, bravely (it’s not like he hasn’t done it before) laid out the story of cheese and our cheddar in particular. Having taken some incisive questions on the use of Lard – which we don’t use any more (the question was ‘why not?’) and our use of vegetarian substitute Rennet. We were then inundated as the good ladies came forward to taste the cheese we had prepared.  Soon enough wedges of best cheddar, not to mention boxes of our renowned cheese straws, were changing hands. The good ladies of Bittern WI were indeed ‘our people’.

Overall Show Champion Cup

The next day saw Katherine and I, packing up for the direction of Plymouth via Exeter, where we were returning the Overall Show Champion Cup to the Royal Devon County Showground. Life must go on and even championship trophies must be returned…eventually. I wonder if we won it three times, we’d be allowed to keep it! A Cheese World Cup perhaps?

Plymouth Naval Base

After which we headed down to Plymouth Naval Base where we had been invited on board the Navy’s top frigate HMS Somerset to run a cheese tasting evening.  Impressive doesn’t start to cover it. Needless to say, the cheese went down scrumptiously well, appreciated by the officers and their Captain. By the time we left, it was dark and there was a two-hour drive back up to our corner of the Mendips. Tired but happy. It feels good to be out and about but always great to come home again.

 

Beating the January Blues: Part II

Frosty Country Scene Cheddar Gorge

Whether you’re of the ‘dry’ January variety or not – and we can’t be talking about the weather, there’s some comfort in this poor little month stretching towards its gloomy end.  Even if you went away for a sunny break, by now you’ll be back with the overwhelming realisation that it’s worse here at this time of year than you thought. That may well just be my gloomy disposition, but I’m putting the blame firmly on the time of the season. Already, we are counting down the days.

Granted the prospect of February approaching doesn’t fill us with warmth, happiness and optimism. Historically, it could be EVEN worse than January. Though, if you’re back on the booze, it might just not seem quite so bad. And what’s this? Cherry blossom on the trees in the Gorge! Bright yellow crocuses poking their heads through the cold ground. Daffodils in the supermarket.

Budding Flowers - Cheddar Gorge

But slowly, ungratefully through the dark mornings (how did it ever get so dark?) life goes on. We get to work, and we go home again (in the same dark) and in between things somehow get accomplished. Life moves slowly. But there is life. The Lion Rock Tea Rooms keep the fire going and the warm cheese scones coming.  The pubs are welcoming and what better respite from the cold and dark is there than a good snug?

And what of the things that we promised ourselves? Dieters, gym bunnies and yogis of the New Year, I’m talking to you!   By now, there is the chance that you just might be getting used to the ‘New You’ and that in turn might make you feel a little better.  Though don’t go forsaking cheeses whatever you do!  And conversely, if you gave up, well at least you don’t have to spend any more time with your inner Gwyneth.

Lady on the beach

Either way, the evenings are lighter, and the morning’s lashing rain aside – are brighter. That old Magnolia tree will burst into bright white-flamed life any day now and the holiday chart in the office is starting to look oversubscribed.  You beat the January Blues without even trying too hard after all. Like everything else, it’s a matter of one step at a time.

Cherry Blossom Tree - Cheddar Gorge