A couple of weeks ago we were asked to put our cheese knowledge to the test by submitting a judge to the British Cheese Awards 2011. The awards have been running since 1994 and whilst there’s plenty of dismal block paste submitted amongst the 904 entries, they do by and large provide the opportunity for speciality cheeses to shine. Take a look at the list of supreme champions from the past few years – Montgomery’s Cheddar, Tunworth, Lincolnshire Poacher – and you’ll see that the cream always rises to the top.
Working with Dorset cheesemaker Amanda Streatfield of Denhay Farms, whose cheddar was one of the award winners, we were delighted to judge the small washed rind cheese category first. Feisty, pungent, squishy little numbers full of character. Real farmhouse cheese that ranged from the truly great to the downright inedible. Fabulous stuff to judge, a Russian roulette of flavour as you cut into each cheese. Our gold medal winner was Milleens Dotes, an Irish cheese that we’ve long admired at Forman & Field with just the right meaty richness for a washed rind but none of the potential acidity of this style and staying just the right side of ‘farmyard’ all the way.
Next up ‘New Blended Sweet’. No, us either. This was a difficult category to judge and consisted of newcomer cheeses with sweet additions to them, cranberries and cherries, that sort of thing. The cheeses in this category were just as awful as they sound, with some we struggled to even award a point. Compared to the the fine wines of the previous category this was like judging an orange squash competition. With every mouthful we gave thanks that we’re in the daily business of finding delicious food and not this sort of stuff. Suffice to say, we won’t be making a recommendation from this category.
To celebrate the awards we’ve put together some of our favourite winners past and present in a handy British Cheese Awards Selection including Tunworth (soft cow’s milk) – Supreme Champion 2006, Lincolnshire Poacher (hard cow’s milk)- Supreme Champion 1996, Dorstone (soft goat’s milk) – Best Fresh Cheese 2011 and Milleens Dotes (washed rind cow’s milk – Gold Medal 2011.
Order 0ne here and enjoy the best of British cheese: http://www.formanandfield.com/british-cheese-awards-winner-selection-p-3359.html