Say Cheese!

Sottocenere al Tartufo

Teddington Cheese is one of the UK's leading online cheese retailers and owner Tony Chuck tells Poppy Watt about his new range of 16 Italian cheeses in the company’s portfolio, includes some artisan cheeses rarely seen outside Italy and not usually available in the UK.

Says Tony, “One particularly interesting cheese is Ol Sciur, from Lombardy, a blue-veined, pasteurised goat's milk cheese, made from raw milk and covered in a mixture of red fruits and rose petals. The name means, ‘The Mister' or ‘The Chief' and its flavour is intense and complex, with the aroma of the fruit adding a further dimension. It is a relatively new cheese, only being produced for some 15 years, by an independent artisan goat's cheese specialist, but it has won numerous awards and international acclaim.

“Another great cheese is Sottocenere al Tartufo, from the Veneto region, a compact, smooth-textured cheese, made from pasteurised cow's milk and with integral flakes of truffle. During ripening the cheese is brine washed, then rubbed in olive oil and rolled in spices and truffle essence. Finally, ash cinders are pressed over it to help retain the flavours.

“For strong flavoured and crumbly, Castelmagno di Montagna DOP from Piedmont is excellent and was considered to be the king of Piedmontese cheeses in the 18th Century. This unpasteurised cow's milk cheese has a crumbly texture with a firm, strong flavour with grassy and earthy undertones. The pate colour leans from ivory white towards ochre-yellow, with bluish-green veins of penicillium moulds. With a thin reddish-yellow rind, which turns wrinkly, and brownish-ochre as the cheese matures, the subtle taste of Castelmagno di Montagna gets stronger, spicier and sharper as it ages.It dates back to 1277, more or less at the same time as the origins of Gorgonzola and is named after a Roman soldier who, despite persecution, kept preaching gospels.  He also gave his name to the famous sanctuary town of Castelmagno in Grana Valley.

Transport tips for Cheese:

The best way to take cheese to a friend’s or on a journey is to keep it in the waxed paper in which it was originally wrapped. Don’t be tempted to wrap it in cling film or a plastic bag, which will make the cheese sweat. Next, loosely over-wrap the cheese in a damp tea towel and place it inside an airtight plastic box. Do not over pack the box.  If you are making a long journey you can include a frozen ice pack in the box but make sure it doesn’t touch the cheese.  Pack it just before leaving and return it to a cool place as soon as possible after arriving.

The cheese board tends to be a major part of today’s meal,” says Tony.  “A few years ago it was something which was far less considered, and consequently enjoyed less. Now we are lucky to have great cheeses on offer.

For the ideal cheese board, less is more. It is better to serve a good-sized portion of a select number of cheeses than lots of small pieces. For serving 4 – 6 people, three or four cheeses should be ample. I would suggest one blue cheese – currently we are selling lots of Crozier Blue - a delicious lightly-veined ewe’s milk blue cheese from Co. Tipperary. It has a creamy texture and a mildly sweet flavour.

“The hard cheese I recommend is one of my favourites, and a recent discovery: Cirone a rare Swiss cheese made from cow’s  milk and perfectly aged to give a nutty flavour and a hint of crystallisation.  It is a new cheese to our shops and not dissimilar to Parmesan, but in our opinion infinitely preferable.

“Goat’s cheese is usually a welcome addition and another recent extra in our range is Capria – an unusual mould-ripened soft cheese made in Worcestershire by the Lightwood Creamery. It has a luxurious creamy texture and a rich, goaty flavour.

“And of course, many people would consider a cheeseboard incomplete without a slice of good cheddar – Montgomery’s is probably our most popular. It has been made in Somerset by the same family for generations and consistently wins awards. It is a flavoursome, nutty cheddar.

Biscuits or Bread?

“Cheese should be the hero and the bread or biscuit should be as plain as possible – they are just a carrier for the cheese.  And, you shouldn’t really need to serve butter with cheese.

Accompaniments

Many of us automatically serve grapes or celery sticks with our cheese.  At Teddington Cheese we stock a selection of accompaniments, including chilli jams, membrillo (quince jelly) dried figs and a range of chutneys.  In the same way that the biscuits shouldn’t detract from the star of the show, I feel only small quantities are required, or they can overcomplicate the flavours,

Storage

“We recommend storing cheese in the fridge.  We wrap all our cheeses in waxed paper, best for keeping them fresh until needed.  Store the cheese in the top of the fridge and remove a couple of hours before it is to be eaten.  Allowing it to breathe and come to room temperature will greatly enhance the flavours, and enjoyment in eating the cheese.” 

For lots more information on the 140 cheeses stocked by Teddington Cheese and to order online, please visit www.teddingtoncheese.co.uk

Poppy Watt

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