Renowned cheese expert, deli owner and cheese award judge Charlie Turnbull selected this cheeseboard for us to showcase cheeses at their best in July. He suggested it should be served with fig relish and thinly sliced apples to cleanse the palate between cheeses so that you can experience the full fresh in the mouth taste of each. Here it is together with his tasting notes:
Wigmore: The best sheep’s milk cheese in the UK and possibly the best soft cheese as well. If you’ve not had Wigmore before here’s some tips for serving it at its best: you must have it ripened at least half through, and don’t eat it after the strong cheeses. The ripeness is key to releasing the liquid cheese that forms under the skin that is the English equivalent of a sheep’s Vacherin Mont d’Or –a potion containing all the flavours of all the flowers of the field in cheese form. It’s flavours are subtle, they can be crowded out. Eat it first.
Swaledale Goat: One of the very best goats cheeses in the UK. Its lightness sets it apart. It comes in a 5” diameter truckle, about 6” high, bright white inside. The goats’ milk is wonderfully handled so as not to have a hint of the billy, giving only the light meadowy sweetness that has won it so many awards.
Oglesheild: A stable mate of Montgomery Cheddar and deserves to be more widely known. A 3-4kg flat wheel, washed in brine once a week intending it to give a raclette melting style. Served uncooked for a cheeseboard is wonderfully distinctive and easy eating. Nutty and almost spicy it is semi hard, everyone likes it.
Blue de Basque: A little know cheese in the UK, but the only Pyrenean blue to have an AOC. It is firm, white and blue in colour edging to grey yellow at the edge. Made from sheep’s milk it tastes like a relative of Roquefort with that distinctive sweet saltiness. However it has a smooth easy creaminess alongside it: maybe it is the love child of both Roquefort and Stilton.
Dolce Gorgonzola: Dolce is the youngest of the gorgonzola family, coming in at around 12 weeks old. It’s sweet and picante with the blue, though only mildly so, the dual curd giving it a mixed texture with soft firmer curds swimming in a see of gorgonzola cream. A world class cheese.
Charlie recommends serving his selection with Peter’s Yard crispbread because cheese needs texture, and Peter’s Yard adds crunch without bulk. The crispbread snaps and crunches its way alongside the slippery gorgonzola or the salty Blue de Basque. You need that extra crunch like a fire needs to crackle. Taste wise, the crispbread hits notes the cheeses never (or at any rate rarely) do – strong savoury notes: bran, yeast, even hinting at bacon. Bass notes while the cheese carries the tune. It brings depth to the whole taste experience.
Tips for serving: Leave out before the meal to come up to room temperature. But watch out:
– don’t leave out too long in this weather, room temperature does not mean hot and sweaty in this rare balmy July, 20-22 degrees is best. Cheese quickly ruins in the current climate never to recover!
– regardless of the weather do not leave on the kitchen table or you risk someone nibbling away at the cheeseboard, while the rest of the meal is being prepared!