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

How to Beat the January Blues: Part I

As the New Year splutters into damp gloomy life, many of us are already dreaming of the holidays. Here in Cheddar Gorge, we are no different. Who wouldn’t swap a dull January for a place in the sun? There’s no doubt about it though, sometimes you can’t see the wood for trees. Sometimes we forget about the things around us that are the real gems.

The truth is we don’t have to travel to far off, exotic places to find adventure and discovery. Sometimes the grass around you is actually greener! And truth be told, that is what makes our cheeses rather tasty.

South West Gems

Here in the South West, right in front of our noses we are lucky enough to have a wealth of wonderful places to visit. With the Spring and Summer holidays far off on the horizon what could be a better time to rediscover some of things that are best about our amazing region?

Green Campervan

Road Trip

How about planning and setting off on a road trip?  Not the grind of the day to day commute, but a real old fashioned car journey that could rediscover some fabulous destinations. Get yourself a roadmap and plan a day of real adventure! Not that we don’t appreciate what our visitors do for us but, it’s also lovely at this time of year to have a little bit more of the place to ourselves.

Why not hit the coast or ramble over towards Glastonbury? There’s magic in the Mendips, not to mention our own Cheddar Gorge. When you really start to look, we live in an amazing area. When was the last time you popped in to see the cheese being made?

In the City

And our gems aren’t just in the countryside. From Bristol to Bath, Exeter, Wells and beyond we have unrivalled historical towns and cities that are brimming with life and culture.  It’s so easy to take for granted or even dismiss what we have on our doorstep. Treasures like the Bristol Old Vic are constantly showing world-class theatre. When was the last time you went?

When the weather is overcast, windswept and grey we are blessed with Bristol’s harbourside or the cosy tea rooms and coffee houses in Bath. What could be better than cosying up to a Country Pub log fire after a bracing walk up Brean Down or along the seafront?

South West Seafront

Beat those Blues

Even now the evenings are beginning to lengthen out. Spring is knocking on the door with snowdrops and crocuses. Our woods, hedgerows and lanes will be waking up before too long.

Beating those January blues is easy once you start to think, not in terms of an escape but real adventures close to home. Feeling blessed and lucky to live in such a beautiful area.

Woodland - Beat the January Blues

Bath Good Food Awards

We had a great night at The Bath Good Food Awards on Sunday 24th September. Sleight Farm won ‘Best Local Cheese’ and so huge Congratulations to them. Sad we didn’t win of course,  but happy to be finalists at least.

The best part of the evening was that the newest member of our Dairy team, Luke, was awarded a training bursary worth £4800.00.  He had been shortlisted and selected for interview by a panel of four formidable foodies! How he remained so calm and composed despite the testing questions we don’t know!

Amongst other things, he had to explain why he should receive this award and what he thought he could bring to our company if successful. He only started working for us this summer as a temporary cheese packer, but settled in well and worked hard. He’s now a permanent member of staff and keen to learn as much as he can about cheesemaking in general, but specifically Raw Milk Traditional Cheddar. This Bursary will allow us to send him on some expert cheesemaking courses to fast track his knowledge.

Our thanks go to Arthur David for championing this award. Well done Luke!

Luke (second from right with his wife Zara next to him) with his giant cheque at the Bath Good Food Awards!

Accompanied by John Higdon, Production Manager and Katherine Spencer from the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company

The Best of British Directory

The Best of British Directory of Food Retailers

Very happy to report that we have been selected to be included in The Best of British Directory of Food Retailers.

For more information and to view this rather special list click HERE.

Remember to click on the British Food and Drink Retailers section where you’ll find us (amongst others such as … Fortnum and Mason and Harrods …… 😉