This has got to be one of my better ideas! I’ve decided to do regular cheese tastings where I buy three vegetarian cheeses on a particular theme and then eat them, comparing and contrasting and learning more about them. Yes, it’s hard work but somebody’s got to do it 😉
So, with my mission decided, I visited my local deli, Urban Pantry in Sheffield, because I know they have a wide selection of cheeses and that the owner Reece is very knowledgeable about what he sells. I was pleased to see that all of the cheese is clearly labelled as to whether it is vegetarian or not. (To clarify, for anybody who hasn’t come across the idea of cheese not being vegetarian, this is due to the rennet used in the cheese-making process which is often not vegetarian. You can find more details on the Vegatarian Society website.) I had a browse and a chat and settled on smoked cheese as my first theme. I brought home Beechwood Smoked Cheddar from the Snowdonia Cheese Company, and Smoked Wensleydale and Smoked Coverdale, both from Hawes in Wensleydale.
I didn’t look at descriptions of any of the cheeses before I tasted them because I didn’t want to be swayed but I did find a useful list of words used to describe cheese on the Cheese Library website.
Describing cheese texture
Airy, Bold, Chewy, Creamy, Crumbly, Custardy, Delicate, Dense, Dry, Elastic, Firm, Flaky, Fluffy, Grainy, Luscious, Moist, Pasty, Pillowy, Pliable, Rich, Sandy, Soft, Spreadable, Sticky, Supple, Tangy, Thick, Velvety
Describing cheese aroma and flavour
Barnyardy, Beefy, Buttery, Caramelly, Citrusy, Earthy, Fruity, Gamy, Grassy, Herbaceous, Lemony, Mild, Mushroomy, Nutty, Sharp, Smoky, Straw/Hay, Sweet, Tangy
I’m not sure how interesting it is to read my descriptions of the cheeses but if you like cheese then I would definitely recommending doing this yourself. It’s good fun and helps you get more enjoyment out of the cheese. Sometimes I just want a cheese sandwich, but other times it’s nice to really concentrate on the different flavours and work out what you like best about them.
Smoked Coverdale, Hawes Wensleydale
This is a pale, cream-coloured cheese, slightly darker on the outside from the smoking. It’s creamy in texture but also slightly crumbly which reminds me of creamy Lancashire. It has a sharp, strong smoked flavour. I thought it tasted quite like how smoke smells if that makes sense. If I closed my eyes and concentrated to get past the smokiness there was a slightly nutty aftertaste.
Smoked Wensleydale, Hawes Wensleydale
This was a little bit harder and more crumbly than the Coverdale and it had a more distinct, slightly mouldy rind. It’s quite a dry cheese (which I don’t mean in a bad way) with a milky flavour and a much more subtle smokiness. I really liked it and might call it a session cheese – I think I could eat a lot of it! I’m not an enormous fan of Wensleydale and prefer it in this smoked form, the smokiness tempers the flavour, so I’d recommend trying it whether you like regular Wensleydale or not.
Beechwood Smoked Cheddar, Snowdonia Cheese Company
This is so different to the other two cheeses. In appearance it’s a much yellower cheese encased in bright yellow wax and has darker speckles throughout it. I’m not sure what they are, perhaps something to do with the smoking. It had the smooth texture you’d expect in all but very mature cheddars and a really rich, almost fruity flavour. I thought the quite sweet, rounded taste was fantastic.
So, was there a winner? Yes, the beechwood smoked cheddar was my favourite but closely followed by the smoked wensleydale. I think the cheddar might make very good cheese on toast.
I’ll leave you with something that made me smile when I was looking at how people describe cheeses. I saw one description that said “a good snacking cheese at any time of day”. I think I would apply that to most cheeses!