Cheshire Cheese is arguably the county’s most iconic and popular export. Ben Coulbeck talks to the producers and sellers in the build-up to British Cheese Week
Great on toast, perfect after a meal and at home on the admiral’s table – Cheshire Cheese is loved the world over.
As the county’s best known product, the distinctive crumbly cheese is celebrated by its producers and sellers and has won awards locally and nationally.
Once the Royal Navy’s cheese of choice, the Cheshire has been enjoyed at home and abroad for centuries and is one of the oldest cheeses in British history, even earning a mention in the Domesday Book.
But in the run up to British Cheese Week, which starts on Saturday, its supporters are hoping food lovers will get their teeth into one of the nation’s favourites.
Former cheesemaker Carole Faulkner, who has been in charge of The Cheese Shop on Northgate Street for 25 years, recently featured in the BBC’s Hairy Bikers show and gained the nickname ‘the big cheese’.
She said Cheshire was successful because of its light taste, unique character and versatility.
“It’s not a strong flavour and, after a large meal, it’s quite clean and fresh tasting and cleanses the palate which is the whole point of a cheese.
“It is our best seller. All the tourists come in and ask for it as well as local people who are keen to buy local produce.
“If they have visitors coming they always want to put Cheshire cheese on the table.
“We don’t make enough of our cheese in Cheshire, it should be celebrated more.”
Another TV ‘star’ is Peter Papprill of Mollington Grange fine food wholesalers, who shot to recognition as the ‘Cheese Detective’ on celebrity chef Gary Rhodes’ cookery programme.
A champion of the county’s home-grown foods, he said Cheshire’s location was central to its flavour and cheese was the county’s only nationally-known icon.
“When you think of Cheddar, you think where is that? Cheshire has its own cheese, it’s almost an edible flag for the county,” he said. “You can only get that flavour because of salt and lushness of the grass, the seven rivers that go through Cheshire. This is the French way, it’s about linking flavour. This is why we used to send 7,000 tonnes down to London.
“It is very usable and people like that, it’s all things to all people. And it is made by people who have a love for what they are doing.”
The British Cheese Awards are being held tomorrow (Friday) at the National Museum in Cardiff and the country’s cream of the crop will be battling cheese-producing rivals from across the country.
Cheshire is blessed with some of the largest producers of cheese in the North West, including Heler’s near Nantwich and HS Bourne and Reece’s Creamerie, both of Malpas.
Mark Frankcom, director of speciality cheese at Reece’s, said: “Our award-winning Cheshire cheese is handmade by our experienced cheese makers in Malpas using traditional methods and family values.
“As a result of our delicious recipe and the expertise of our staff, Reece’s Creamery has been awarded nine awards for its Cheshire cheese this year. We hope that this success will continue at the British Cheese Awards this week.”