Patricia Cleveland-Peck reviews British Artisan Cheeses and their Producers by Francis Gimblett
I could give up meat and possibly fish – but the idea of giving up cheese effectively prevents my ever becoming a vegan. Wherever I travel abroad I always seek out local cheeses and am often frustrated by not being able to find them at home. It is only relatively recently that I became aware of how many superb cheeses are made here in the UK and this guide provides an excellent reference to them.
Francis Gimblett who, with his wife Pam makes cheese in Haslemere at the northern tip of the South Downs, has put it together. He trained as a chef, was the youngest sommelier of a five star hotel and later founded Taste of the Vine, a company which staged food and wine events in many countries, before his passion for cheese overtook his other interests and he started Gimblett’s Cheese in 2014.
It was during a period of fallow time when the dairy was being refurbished and before the spring cheese making resumed that Francis had the idea of writing a catalogue of his favourite British cheeses. The further he looked into the project however, the larger it grew. From his initial 30 favourite cheeses, the list of artisan cheese makers reached 500 and was still growing… He therefore had to prioritise. He would choose 80, whose cheeses were of the highest quality based on taste and then let each individual cheesemaker tell his story.
Before setting out on this quest however, Francis offers the reader interesting and easily digestible information. Firstly, tasting; this of course is a subjective, personal experience with the added complication that the same cheese can taste different on different days but using a scoring system converted from wine tasting, Francis highlight the cheeses which shone for him. He goes on to explains the symbols used for single herd or flock, small breeds, British heritage etc. and the question of pasteurised v. unpasteurised. Further sections deal with on cheese categories and why cheeses differ – after which we are ready to meet the cheesemaker of England.
I first looked for cheesemakers near where I live in Sussex and found four, three of which I had heard. The fourth, Alsop & Walker produce hard and soft cheeses made from cow’s milk in two different dairies. The images and descriptions (‘Mayfield’ is described as having flavours of ‘seared chantrelle, wild flower and salted caramel…’) are enticing and I shall certainly seek out their cheeses.
The book however, covers the whole county with many fascinating stories and great photos. Just flicking through the pages made me feel very hungry. It also contains the stories of how the artisan cheesemakers started out, plus tasting notes and suggestions as to what to drink with each cheese. For anyone who loves cheese, this is the ideal volume to guide you to your local artisan cheese maker or to put in the car when (and it won’t be long) travelling throughout Britain.
Gimblett’s Guide to the Best of British Cheeses is published by Jeroboam Press @ £14.99
It can be ordered from the website post free