Judging cheese in a field

The public day for the International Cheese & Dairy Awards at Nantwich was a bit of a washout, with the main agricultural show being cancelled due to concerns about the weather (and being quite muddy underfoot on the Tuesday).

The 200-plus judges on the trade show day did their best, and came up with a Supreme Champion winner from the 5,000 international cheeses – the Wyfe of Bath from the Bath Soft Cheese Company. Not only that, the cheese marquee remained open on the Wednesday, with free entry and cheese for all. Talk about a result, and making lemonade out of rainy weather, to mix a few metaphors.

I myself judged some excellent Australian cheeses, some yogurts and a Double Gloucester or two. I came home with some Bookham Harrison Farms Sussex Charmers, along with a coveted cheese truckle from the Cheshire Cheese Company – one of its new artisan hand made Royal Blue Cheeses. Each cheese is hand made, matured and then wrapped in foil before being dipped in wax.

It is a delicious cheese and I’m sad to say we made short work of it last night when it appeared on the cheese board. It’s exciting when you find a new cheese but always a bit frustrating to not be able to get hold of it (see Lynher’s Cornish Kern or Cropwell Bishop’s Beauvale for me in the past), and many thanks to the very kind folks at the Cheshire Cheese Company for sharing it with me. Now, the big problem is obtaining more of it. Or perhaps I shouldn’t, as we just consume it in one sitting.

Then again, it’s fun going over to Paxton and Whitfield or to Neal’s Yard and not only finding the cheeses, but discovering more lovely ones to sample. This is yet another reason why we are not moving out of London anytime soon. Proximity to suppliers is key for all one’s addictions.

Overall, I had a busy couple of days up north, with the Society of Dairy Technology’s Summer Symposium and annual dinner in Nantwich the day before. I found Nigel White’s talk about the history of British cheeses quite interesting. Facts such as the US being the larger supplier of cheese to the UK in the mid-19th century, and that imports have almost always had a key role in supplying our very dairy-hungry islands, were enlightening.

In recent years, there has been huge growth in artisanal cheese making, and a rise in household incomes to help purchase the cheese. Please contact the SDT (www.sdt.org) for more information about these presentations, and to find out about upcoming events.

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