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Crafting the Perfect British Cheese Selection: A Comprehensive Guide

Crafting the Perfect British Cheese Selection: A Comprehensive Guide

Welcome to our in-depth guide on selecting the ideal range of British cheeses for your next gathering or event. Creating a well-balanced cheese board involves more than just picking your favourite cheeses; it's about offering a diverse and harmonious selection that caters to all tastes and preferences.

In this guide, we'll help you navigate the selection process by considering the number of people, their adventurousness, dietary requirements, and the balance of cheese types, including hard, soft, blue, goat, sheep, and washed-rind cheeses

Step 1: Determine the Number of People

Small Gathering (1-4 People)

For a smaller group, a selection of 3 different cheeses is usually sufficient. Aim for a variety of textures and flavours to cater to different preferences.

Medium Gathering (5-10 People)

For a medium-sized group, opt for a selection of 3-5 cheeses to ensure there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Large Gathering (10+ People)

For a larger event, a generous selection of 5-7 cheeses is ideal to cater to a variety of tastes and preferences.

Step 2: Consider Their Adventurousness

Cheese Connoisseurs

If your guests are cheese aficionados who love trying new and unusual flavours, consider including some more adventurous cheeses such as Bleu du Bocage, Gubbeen, Isle of Mull Cheddar or Morbier.


Cheese Lovers

For those who enjoy a variety of cheese but prefer more familiar flavours, opt for a balanced selection of both mild and mature cheeses such as Keens Cheddar, Penhelyg Abaty Brie, and Mayfield.

Cheese Novices

If your guests are less adventurous when it comes to cheese, stick to more mild and universally liked options such as Delice de Borgogne, Driftwood, Barkham Blue, Montgomery Cheddar.

Step 3: Balance the Types of Cheese

The aim of the game is to offer a range of flavours and textures without repeating like for like. If you are having a hard cheese and want something similar, look at semi-hard or crumbly cheeses. If you are having a strong hard washed rind cheese you can also find milder, soft washed rind cheeses. You get the idea - a good spread of flavours and textures to provide a variety.

If you are having 3 cheeses it is common to have a hard cheese, such as a Cheddar, a soft cheese, such as a Brie and a blue cheese, such as a Stilton.

For more types cheeses you can add in goats, sheep and washed rind cheeses although of course you can swap these for blue cheese if you are uncertain about that. It is often possible to have a cheese that covers more than one type, such as a hard + goat cheese (White Lake Cheese's 'Rachel') or a  soft + blue (Scooping Gorgonzola), which allows you to cover more taste and textures within your selection.

Hard Cheeses

Include a wonderful, and truly artisanal, Farmhouse Cheddar. Unlike the mass-produced name-sakes, these are some of the rightful kings of the cheese world. Often made to strict recipes handed down generation to generation, a clothbound raw milk cheddar, such as Keens or Montgomery is a proper food of the land. Deep and brothy, or salty and tangy a great cheddar should sit proudly on every cheeseboard.

There are plenty of others to choose from as well! Why not give a Manchego a go, for memories of childhood holidays in Spain, or an Old Winchester that combines the best of cheddar, parmesan and gouda.

Alpine cheeses are hard and can also sit along side any of the above as they are easily a different and luxurious addition.

Semi Hard and Crumbly Cheeses

You could opt to have one or more of these instead of a hard cheese, but also as an addition depending on the number of cheeses you are choosing. More pliable than the harder fracturing textures of hard cheeses, normally with a closer and more pliable texture they can be clean and milky, like a Cornish Yarg, or lactic sharp and mouth-melty like an Idle Hour.

Soft Cheeses

Typically a choice will be for a brie-style cheese with its mould ripened rind, gooey breakdown and chalky paste that disappears in time to be replaced with the breakdown. Unlike the tasteless, ageless supermarket varieties, these come in a variety of styles and strengths. Sussex Brie has flavours of grass, hay and grassy pastures. It never has a chalky centre yet the breakdown retains its shape. Caws Cenarth Brie is more like a wonderful French brie in that it matures typically with the breakdown becoming more prominent over time, taking the cream and butter flavour stronger and stronger. The astonishing organic Caws Penhelyg Abaty becomes so soft and running over maturation and is like whipped cream. 

Beyond the brie are triple creme, like Delice du Borgogne. Like a block of soft scoop icecream that is on the verge of melting, it carries the double cream flavour and adds a measure of white button mushrooms as it ages. Perfect for spreading on bread and pairing with a sparkling white.

Blue Cheeses

These range from gentle and creamy to strong, salty and crumbly and bring a whole new character to the cheeseboard. Not everyone's favourite so do keep them separate enough from the rest to avoid crowding.

If you are a fan you could go from the mild and creamy Beauvale, Barkham Blue or Abaty Glas to a more robust crumbly Blue Murder from Scotland to the more robust yet Colston Basset Stilton or French cave-aged Roquefort. For something very different, and certainly one of our favourites, Bleu du Bocage; a blue goat's cheese. Well balanced and low-to-mid strength tangy and salty with a fabulous texture. Perfect on a cracker with a light red wine or ale. 

Goat Cheeses

A good goat's cheese is a wonderful 4th cheese for a cheeseboard, but also don't forget that some people find they can more easily digest goat's cheese to cow's, so it might be worth having some there anyway. These can be soft, creamy and mild such as Driftwood or Tor or gooey like a Michael's Mount, or strong or hard and nutty like Rachel. All of these are made by the amazing White Lake Cheese Company in Somerset.

Sheep Cheeses

These are most certainly not the same as goat cheese and tend to be harder with a lovely nutty flavour, such as Ewe Eat Me by Alsop & Walker.

Washed-Rind Cheeses

Whilst having a reputation of being the stinkiest of all the cheeses, and these do exist, there is as much of a range of styles to washed-rind cheeses as there are across the rest of the types and certainly many wonderful rich and tangy flavours without too much smell, so please do not ignore this type of your cheese as it contains some of the most interesting and exotic tastes out there. Italian Taleggio, that tastes yeasty, Rollright, from Gloucestershire, that's creamy, mild, mushroomy and autumnal forest floor, tangy and complex Irish Gubbeen with it's Celtic Welsh cousin Saval, just a bit firmer, strong yet creamy Morbier. And so the list goes on. 

Step 4: Address Dietary Requirements

Vegetarian Cheeses

Britain has a broad spectrum of both vegetarian and animal rennet cheeses so it is easy to offer something for everyone.

Pasteurised and Unpasteurised Milk

We have a large range of cheeses made with pasteurised, unpasteurised and thermised milk and the best of all of them are wonderful.  If you are uncertain as to the milk treatment for your cheese, please ask - and please don't be offended if we ask you if this is something we need to take into consideration.

We would always advise you follow the NHS advice on which cheeses to eat or not eat depending on your age, if you are pregnant or have a compromised immune system.

Conclusion

Creating a wonderful cheese selection shouldn't be difficult and always follow your tastebuds to what you prefer. Follow the guidelines above to provide a good mix of flavours and textures, then consider some dietary requirements and you are good to go! We are here to help and offer guidance, so never be afraid to ask. We love to help.