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Five West Country Cheeses You Must Try

Unless you’re living under a rock where no cheese exists, you’re probably aware that the West Country is home to many a fine artisan cheese maker. Now, by artisan, we mean cheeses which are produced by hand using the traditional craftsmanship of skilled cheesemakers, which results in a more complex taste and interesting varieties rather than mass-produced cheese. Many using locally-sourced milk and traditional methods. But of all the cheese in all the West Country, which are our favourite artisan cheeses.

Here are our top five West Country Cheeses you simply MUST try.

Beenleigh Blue Beenleigh Blue
The richness and depth of flavour you experience when eating Beenleigh are due to the inspired cheesemaker Robin Congdon of Ticklemore Cheese, this was the first of his cheeses, he also makes the superb Devon Blue and Harbourne Blue. Beenleighs flavour, however is difficult to pin down mainly due to the fact the cheese changes throughout the season, highlighting the differences in the milk and its maturing times. It can be anything from fresh and crumbly in June when the cheeses are young turning to a deeper, richer and fuller flavour as the year draws on. One thing is certain though, Ticklemore’s head cheese-maker Ben Harris, manages the finest juggling act keeping on top of the seasonal variations in the sheeps and goat’s milk and the use of the three different types of milk in the cheese room. This is a multi-award winner for a good reason and certainly one of our favourites.

Montgomery Cheddar
If there was ever a God in the cheese world, Montgomery would be sitting on the throne, high & mighty on a pedestal. This is one of the three truly traditional cheddars still to be made in the country today. In fact, all three are made in the West Country – we are truly blessed! James Montgomery’s ever attentiveness to his calling is truly inspiring from the attention to the herd’s feed so he gets the right levels of fat and protein in the milk, to the use of unpasteurised milk, the starter culture used and the fact they are bound in cloth and aged for a minimum of a year. Montgomery Cheddar has a sweet nuttiness, rich in character, drier than most cheddars but rewards with a grainy crunch as it ages. I highly recommend Montgomery Cheddar.

Sharpham brie
It could be said, a difficult choice, to choose just one of the many fine cheeses produced on the Sharpham estate, just two miles outside the ancient market town of Totnes. But for me, this multi award winning cheese is my firm favourite. With it’s gorgeously, creamy buttery personality coming from the addition of fresh Jersey cow’s milk and the fact it is unpasteurised adds to the unctious, full depth of flavour it has when it gradually ripens from chalky to meltingly soft. I find it a little like a teenager…needs some quiet time, can be difficult to mature…and needs a little coaxing but when it finally reaches maturity it is a true delight and you can pass it into the world knowing you have had a hand in its coming of age. Sharpham is always a wonderful addition to your cheese board…if it gets that far!

Stinking Bishop
Produced by Charles Martell & Son, demand for this sticky, medium-soft cheese increased suddenly in 2005 with the release of ‘Wallace & Gromit & the Were-Rabbit’ where the cheese was held under the nose of Wallace to revive him. Many know this fact, but the real reason for this cheese existence is that Charles began making Stinking Bishop from the milk of his Gloucestershire herd, to increase awareness of the breed, near to extinction. Despite its alarming smell, which arises from the cheese being washed in ‘Stinking Bishop pear juice’ it is quite delicious, and could be said, a fairly subtle surprise, even mild-flavoured…providing you train yourself to get past the odour first!

Quicke’s Goats’ Milk Cheddar
This is a wonderful award winning goats’ milk cheese with a wonderful earthy full smell and of course, cheddar texture. Made deep in the Devon countryside on Mary Quickes’ farm. The Quicke family have been farming here for over 450 years and cheese making for over 25 years, Mary continues to produce outstanding cheeses today and manages to balance the goat’s milk with the flavour of real cheddar perfectly. A worthy addition to any cheese board.

I want to end by apologising for all those wonderful artisan cheeses I haven’t picked and saying how things have changed. The range of cheeses now being produced in this country are a never ending delight to me, and I still have a lot of cheese eating to do even across this country. To tell you the truth, catch me on another day and quite frankly, it would be a different list of delightful cheesemakers. What do you reckon?
West Country Cheese slate