OUR CHOICEST CHEESES
The French used to claim that Britain had many religions but only one cheese (Cheddar), while France had one religion (Catholicism) but a cheese for every day of the year. Now it's our turn to boast a cheese for every day: more than 365 are listed by the cheese-making associations of Britain and Ireland.
There is no question about quality. Quantity is the problem, with only 3,000 tons of hand-made cheese compared with 300,000 tons of the factory-made product. Tracking down good craft cheeses is an act of pilgrimage, for not every town has a specialist cheese shop, and supermarkets are little help. 'They are the enemies of good cheese,' says Cyril O'Donnell, of the Irish Cheesemakers' Association. 'All they want to do is wrap it in clingfilm and put it in a chill cabinet.' But he's delighted to note that the Irish chain Superquinn (with 14 stores) is putting dehumidifiers in the cheese cabinets, and this is going to help. 'You must give good cheese a chance. It's a living thing.'
Many, but not all of the 100 cheeses we list below have been made with raw, unpasteurised milk, which gives the flora and bacteria a chance to ripen the cheeses and develop depth and complexity of flavour.