Today is National Cheese Lovers’ Day and whilst many people will be detoxing following one too many cheese boards during the festive season, there’s nothing wrong with lapsing for one day and enjoying a bit of cheese with your Friday night dinner. In Herefordshire – plus Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and many surrounding counties – the number of talented local cheese producers is so immense, we don’t really know where to start but we’ve outlined some of the best cheeses that you can find locally.
Before we start, just to put our love of cheese into context, did you know that there are at least 2,000 varieties of cheese around the world? Queen Victoria received a giant wheel of cheese as a gift for her wedding, weighing over 1,000 pounds. Greeks are the largest consumers of cheese worldwide with an average Greek person consuming around 27.3 kg of cheese every year, about ¾ of which is feta cheese. Finally, an old law in the US state of Wisconsin used to require restaurants to serve cheese with every meal. We can’t argue with that.
Ross-on-Wye’s Truffles Delicatessen on the High Street is the ‘go to’ outlet for speciality cheeses where you’ll find a fantastic range on offer including local and continental cheeses. Try the ever popular (at least for its comedy name) Stinking Bishop, a washed rind cheese produced since 1972 by Charles Martell and Son at Hunts Court Farm in neighbouring Dymock just 10 miles from Ross. Also available is the locally produced Little Hereford – both plain and with sage – which is a full flavoured hard cheese matured for a minimum of 4 months. The original 1917 recipe was found by a Monkland Cheese Dairy staff member in their grandmother’s attic and was resurrected by the dairy in 1996. Or maybe the Scrumpy Apple Cheddar is more your taste – with its distinctive dark green rind, this cheese is a combination of fine cheddar mixed with apples steeped in locally produced Westons Old Rosie Cider which gives it a deliciously sweet yet crisp taste.
Truffles’ impressive range of UK varients includes Ticklemore Goat’s Cheese from Devon (perfect match with figs and Pinot Grigio), Colston Basset Stilton from Nottinghamshire (best enjoyed with a glass of rich port), Baron Bigod Brie from Suffolk with its rich and earthy flavours (ideal match with bacon in a baguette) and Welsh organic Perl Las (meaning ‘blue pearl’), with its wonderful pale gold natural rind, pale yellow colour and blue/green veining, made by Caws Cenarth in Carmarthenshire, West Wales.
Also available is the multi award-winning Berkswell Sheep’s Cheese which is one of the finest examples of a British ewes’ milk cheese, using only the milk from Ram Hall Dairy’s own flock of Friesland sheep. This speciality cheese is best washed down with cider, chianti or a Spanish rioja (white or red) and served on a cheese board with quince jelly or Iberico ham. Truffles’ huge range of chutneys and crackers will compliment any of the above so have a browse and see what delicious combinations you can find on the shelves of this delightful deli for your next cheese course.
Mark’s Cheese Counter from Taynton, is also worth a visit, attending Ross-on-Wye’s weekly markets on Thursdays. Owner, Mark, has a fantastic range of local and continental cheeses plus those essential cheeseboard accessories such as antipasti, quince jelly, chutneys, local honey plus Suffolk Salami.
Mark has been running his cheese business for over 10 years, starting out to complement his parents’ bakery business. As well as the best of British cheeses such as Bowland, Godminster, Caerphilly and Cornish yarg, his range includes specialities from France, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany such as Manchego, Comté, Gouda, Reblochon or Geitost. Pop along on one of our market days and Mark can help you select the perfect cheese board for the weekend.
Finally, just to ensure you get your five a day (and we don’t mean cheese), make sure you add some celery, grapes or apples to dress your cheese board – Fresh Fruit Frenzy, a new and welcome addition to the Ross-on-Wye markets is your final stop off on your cheesy treasure hunt this weekend, stocking a huge range of top quality fresh fruit and veg to (maybe) slightly ease your conscience.