What is the best way to store cheese?
British cheese is best enjoyed fresh, although cheese can be stored in a cool environment for anything from a couple of days to several months and depending on the type of cheese, will not affect the taste.
In order to prevent loss of moisture, cheese should either be wrapped tightly in foil or stored in an airtight container. It is best to keep cheese in the bottom part of your fridge.
To bring out its full flavour, cheese should always be served at room temperature. You should try to remove cheese from the fridge at least two hours before serving and keep loosely wrapped.
Is it safe to freeze cheese?
You can freeze most hard cheese but on defrosting they become rather crumbly, although the texture will be altered they should still taste good. However, Stilton being an open textured cheese, does freeze and defrost perfectly. Keep in a freezer for up to three months wrapped in foil or cling film but allow it to defrost in the fridge overnight before serving.
What constitutes ‘mature’ when it comes to Cheddar and is there a trade definition of this?
There is no legal definition of mature Cheddar. However, it is generally taken to mean cheese that has been kept for around 9 months of age and exhibits distinct flavours over and above those associated with mild or medium Cheddar. Those flavours will vary with the style of Cheddar being made. Mild and medium Cheddar are generally described as having gentle flavours with a creamy background. As they age towards 9 months or beyond the distinctive flavours develop - be they sharp/tangy, farmy, sweet/nutty or savoury/meaty - or indeed a combination of these flavours. Sometimes these flavours may be sufficiently pronounced in a cheese younger than 9 months and sometimes it may take a few months longer for those more distinct flavours to develop.
How do I know if the Cheddar I buy is imported?
Cheddar cheese is one of the most widely made cheeses in the world and in 2008 the UK imported around 138,000 tonnes of Cheddar. Increasingly, major retailers will put the name of the dairy, farm, region or country in which the cheese is made. By law all dairy products must carry a health mark which indicates where the last significant stage of processing took place. What is confusing is that most of the imported Cheddar is cut in to smaller pieces in the UK and as such will carry a UK health mark. So unless the packaging on the cheese tells you that it came from a named UK dairy, farm, region or country within the UK, it is likely that the Cheddar is imported. If you are not sure, ask your retailer.
The British Cheese Board has been lobbying government to require all cheese products to carry a clear indication of where the cheese was made and not simply where it was packed. As a part of this, the British Cheese Board is encouraging cheese makers in the UK to register for use of the Red Tractor logo which gives consumers a guarantee that the cheese is produced in the UK. For more information on the Red Tractor Scheme, please visit the Assured Foods Standards' website: www.redtractor.org.uk.
I am lactose intolerant, can I eat cheese?
Despite common misconceptions, most people who are lactose intolerant are in fact able to eat most hard cheeses. This is because most of the lactose in the milk used to make hard cheeses is removed in the whey as part of the cheese-making process, making them virtually lactose free.
The lactose content of most cheeses can be checked by looking at the nutritional facts on the label - any carbohydrate in natural cheese (excluding cheese blended with fruits or some processed cheese) comes from the milk sugar or lactose. Most hard cheeses, such as Cheddar, contain as little as 0.1 grams per 100 grams, which makes them suitable for most of those who are lactose intolerant.
Cheeses with higher levels of lactose include some processed cheeses, soft white spreadable cheese and cottage cheese and some of these may be inappropriate for the lactose intolerant. Always check the nutritional information on cheese packaging for information before consuming and check the carbohydrate content.
In some rare cases of lactose intolerance it might be necessary to completely avoid dairy foods. Speak to a state registered dietician for advice on reducing or avoiding lactose and to avoid any nutritional imbalance.
Is cheese good for my teeth and bones?
Calcium helps build strong teeth and bones. Hard cheese is a source of calcium. A 30 gram matchbox-sized piece of cheese provides about 30% of an adults daily requirement for calcium.
How can I find out more about the nutritional value of cheese?
Full Nutritional Information breakdown can be found on the packaging of most common British Cheeses.
Are all cheeses suitable for vegetarians?
Cheese is a natural and complete food that is a popular alternative to meat. Nowadays nearly all British cheese is suitable for vegetarians because it is made using a non animal renneting agent. There are a handful of traditionally made farmhouse cheeses that still use animal rennet. For more information visit the Vegetarian Cheeses page in the Health section under Information on Cheese.
What is Organic cheese?
To be labelled Organic the cheese must have been produced in a dairy licensed by one of the Organic Certification bodies under which only milk from registered Organic Dairy Farms is used to make the Organic Cheese. As milk from Organic Farms tends to be more expensive than conventionally produced milk Organic Cheese sells at a premium price.
What gives Red Leicester its distinctive colouring?
Red Leicester gets its red colouring from Annatto, a natural flavourless vegetable extract produced from the the reddish pulp which surrounds the seed of the achiote tree found in South America. Annatto has been used in cheese making for more than 300 years. Originally cheese makers used the colouring to signify a cheese that was rich in milk produced by cows feeding on grass rich pastures which naturally produced an orange hue to the milk.
Can all British cheeses be produced in any part of the country or are there some cheeses that can only be produced in specific areas?
Although Cheddar originated in the town of Cheddar, the cheese is now made all over the world, although most people will agree that British Cheddar is best! Most regional cheeses such as Cheshire, Lancashire and Wensleydale, do not necessarily have to be produced in these regions to merit the name. They describe a recipe for the particular cheese.
However, there are some cheeses, which have a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). West Country Farmhouse Cheddar can only be produced in the West Country (Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Cornwall) and Stilton can only be produced in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. Strangely enough, Stilton has not been made in the village of the same name for more than 200 years. It was from the Bell Inn and other coaching inns in the village that Stilton was sold to outlets up and down the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh in the 18th Century. From the mid-1740s most of the Stilton cheese was made other than in the village. For further information go to www.stiltoncheese.com.
Other cheeses which have a PDO are:
- Beacon Fell Traditional Lancashire
- Buxton Blue
- Swaledale ewes' cheese
- Single Gloucester
- Staffordshire Cheese
Three other cheeses have PGI (Protected Geographical Indication)
- Dorset Blue
- Exmoor Blue
Visit the Defra website (www.defra.gov.uk) for more information.
How is cheese made and are there any creameries I can visit to see how cheese is made?
Very few creameries are open to the public, although it is possible to see the cheese making process at the following creameries:
- Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
- Davidstow Creamery, Camelford, Cornwall
- Leagram Organic Dairy, Nr Preston, Lancs
- Northumberland Cheese Company, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
- Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes, North Yorkshire
- Caws Cenarth Cheese, Dyfed
- Isle of Arran Creamery, Scotland
- Monkland Cheese Dairy, Herefordshire
- Orkney Cheese Company, Kirwall, Orkney
- Rothesay Creamery, Isle of Bute
How much milk is needed to produce 1kg of Cheddar?
It takes approximately 10 litres of milk to produce 1kg of Cheddar.
How much of the milk produced every year in the UK ends up as cheese?
More than one quarter of total UK milk production every year ends up in cheese - that's around 3,500 million litres of milk. Most cows produce an average of 20 litres of milk per day during their normal lactation period, that's 6,000 litres every year.
Is cheese made from un-pasteurised milk safe and who makes cheese using un-pasteurised milk?
Britain specialises in the production of hard pressed unpasteurised milk cheeses, which can be stored for long periods. British Cheese Board members that make fine examples of traditional cheeses include Keens, Greens of Glastonbury and the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company.
These varieties of cheese are perfectly safe to eat, not only because of the care taken in their making but also because they are stored for a long time before they are sold.
Many small cheesemakers producing other types of cheese often use raw milk and these will always be clearly labelled as such.
The advice from the Department of Health remains that certain groups of people should avoid eating any soft or blue cheeses made from unpasteurised milk. The groups at risk include very young children, the elderly, pregnant women or those whose immune system is challenged.
Pregnant women are advised not to eat any soft or blue cheese at all.
There is nothing intrinsically harmful about raw milk cheeses. However, they can easily be contaminated by unwrapped raw foods commonly found in domestic fridges or in the cool counter of a food store. Some soft cheeses, for example, have high moisture levels and low acidity and this is a friendly environment for dangerous bacteria that can easily be lurking in or on other foods. These other foods pose no threat to human health when cooked properly as the cooking process will destroy any harmful bacteria. Eaten raw, they may cause problems. Examples include raw meat or vegetables. Accidental cross contamination may occur and every care should be taken to follow the guidelines given in the storage and handling of such foods.
The majority of cheese produced in the UK is made from pasteurized cows' milk. But in recent years there has been a revival in small scale cheese making with old recipes being resurrected and new ones being developed. Traditionally, small scale farmhouse cheese production would only have used unpasteurised milk. In general, cheeses made from unpasteurised milk will have a character and taste profile of their own. They will exhibit subtle variations throughout the year reflecting the seasons and the diet of the cows as well as the breed of cow. The makers of unpasteurised milk cheese will, almost by definition, be small-scale perhaps taking some or all of the milk from local dairy farms. In some cases, the milk will come from their own herd of dairy cows. Within such dairies, the skills of the traditional cheese maker come to the fore - controlling the many variables in climate, temperature, humidity as well as the milk - to produce cheeses which are truly different. They are often described by their makers in such terms as "earthy" or "exhibiting farmyard flavours" or "full flavoured". These are cheeses with a unique personality.
Where can I buy British Cheese outside the UK?
British cheese is exported to most major capitals of the world so you should be able to find British cheese in any big retailer in these key cities.
The UK's major exporters of cheese are:
- Dairy Crest International
- Milk Link Cheese Company
- Somerdale International
- Coombe Castle International
- North Downs Dairy Company
- Singleton's Dairy
- Neal's Yard Dairy
- Ilchester Cheese
Alternatively, many of our members provide a direct sales service either over the Internet or telephone.
Is it true that you can buy British Brie, British Camembert, British Gruyère and UK Mozzarella?
Yes, they are all made in the UK. Somerset Brie and Camembert are produced by Lubborn Cheese, Cornish Brie and Camembert are produced by Cornish Country Larder. Joseph Heler Ltd produces a number of continental style cheeses for food manufacturers including Gruyère and Italian style hard cheeses. The majority of Mozzarella used in pizza chains up and down the country is made in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Where can I find information on cheesemaking courses?
- High Weald Dairy, tel: 01825 791636
- The Cheddar Gorge Company tel: 01934 742810
- Reaseheath College, tel: 01270 625131
- Duchy College, tel: 01579 372222
- Brackenhurst College , tel: 01636 817000
- Food Technology Centre, tel: 01626 325858
- Cannington College , tel: 01278 655000
- Otley College , tel: 01473 785543
- Specialist Dairy Courses, tel: 01278 732563
- UK Cheese Guild, tel: 01963 371271
- School of Artisan food: www.schoolofartisanfood.org/short-courses/dairy
For details contact:
01949 842 867
I am considering a career in the cheese making industry. How can I learn more about how to get started?
Contact an organisation called The Society of Dairy Technology by logging onto http://www.sdt.org/
I'm thinking of setting up my own cheesemaking business. Where can I get some advice?
Contact an organisation called DairyCo on 01285 646500 or visit www.dairyco.org.uk
Also see this book:
- Artisanal Cheesemaking by John Knox - ISBN 978-0-955245-0-9
Where can I buy materials for making cheese at home such as rennet, starter cultures and books on cheese making?
If you are making a small amount of fresh cheese such as cottage or curd style cheese, natural live yoghurt will provide an ideal starter culture.
The following companies offer a mail order service on cheese making equipment:
- Moorlands Cheesemakers , tel: 01749 850 108
- Stratton Sales, tel: 01749 344071
- Goat Nutrition Ltd, tel: 01233 770780
- Fullwood & Bland Ltd, tel: 01691 622391
- The Cheese Making Shop - http://www.cheesemakingshop.co.uk/ - Tel: 0121 744 4844
We are aware of four books written on the subject by American authors:
- Home Cheesemaking by Ricki Carroll - ISBN 978-1-58017-464-0
- Making Great Cheese at Home by Barbara Ciletti - ISBN 1-57990-267-7
- The Cheesemaking Book by Paul Peacock - ISBN 978-1904-871-24-8
- Cheese Making - Self Sufficiency by Rita Ash - ISBN 978-184773-461-7