CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Somerset Life today CLICK HERE

West Country Cheesemakers say Sack the Stilton

PUBLISHED: 08:44 08 March 2010 | UPDATED: 14:55 20 February 2013

Keen's Unpasteurised Extra-mature West Country Farmhouse Cheddar

Keen's Unpasteurised Extra-mature West Country Farmhouse Cheddar

The British Christmas cheeseboard can be as predictable as stockings, satsumas and socks. So, why not add a little sparkle to your yuletide cheese selection and send a little festive cheer to Somerset's fantastic cheesemakers? The county is home t...

Choosing and tasting cheeses

Most good delis will let you 'try before you buy' so if you want to get the most from your nibble here are a few tips to help you decide whether a cheese works for you:

- Look at the cheese - is it inviting?

- Touch it, break it, smell it - texture and aroma are important factors

- Put a piece in your mouth, chew it and press it against the roof of your mouth. What can you taste? How does it feel? Does the taste have different facets?

- Swallow, and think what's left behind? Does it have a lingering and complex flavour?

Serving tips

Good cheeses are best stored in a cool, damp environment. Keep it in the warmest part of the fridge (usually the top shelf unless it has a freezer compartment, in which case use the salad drawer at the bottom). If it's kept too cold the cheese will lose flavour. Cheese that becomes too dry will start to crack and wither, so keep it well wrapped.

To enjoy at their best, remove hard cheeses from the fridge and stand them at room temperature for at least an hour before serving, which allows the full range of flavours to develop. Serve softer cheeses straight from the fridge.


Westcombe Dairy Unpasteurised Mature West Country Farmhouse Cheddar

(hard, cows' milk, strong)

All Cheddar is not the same. Because West Country Farmhouse Cheddar has Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status and is handmade, each farm produces a cheese with a character all its own. Using experience passed down through generations to create some of the finest Cheddar, Westcombe Dairy use only milk from their own herds.

Cheese has been made at Westcombe, near Shepton Mallet, since the 1890s, and they returned to making traditional unpasteurised rounds of West Country Farmhouse Cheddar in the 1990s. They now produce about 100 rounds each week, ageing the cheeses for up to 20 months. The final product is a fine cheese that varies subtly with the seasons.

Westcombe is available in Waitrose under the West Country brand. Tel 01237 431246

Keen's Unpasteurised Extra-mature West Country Farmhouse Cheddar

(hard, cows' milk, strong)

Traditional West Country Farmhouse Cheddar has been made by the Keen family at Moorhayes Farm near Wincanton since 1899. The Keens use milk from their own Friesian cows to make their flavourful, rich cheese. The cloth-bound cheeses mature for more than 12 months in the farm store. They are regularly turned, cleaned and sampled to ensure that each one acquires the characteristic robust but subtle nutty flavour, which has real appeal for the fans of stronger cheese.

Keen's make only about 130 rounds of Cheddar each week. It is available in Waitrose, sold as their Finest Extra-mature Cheddar under the West Country label. Tel 01963 32286

Somerset Blue

(semi-hard, cows' milk, medium)

A full-fat, unpressed but firm blue cheese with a predominantly white mould rind, Somerset Blue has a rich, nutty and smooth flavour. Its creamy yellow colour and the buttery flavour are derived from the Jersey milk with which it's made. It is matured longer than Exmoor Jersey Blue and is thus bluer and stronger but just as rich and buttery.

Somerset Blue is produced by the Exmoor Blue Cheese Company in an old stone dairy that lies in a lush valley near Lydeard St Lawrence. Ian and Ruby Arnett maintain a hands-on approach to cheesemaking, using only traditional methods.

Available in many delis and good food stores. Tel 01984 667328


(semi-soft, cows' milk, mild)

Goldilocks, made by Daisy & Co, is a camembert-style soft cheese, ripened in the traditional way by the action of the soft white mould which covers the mature cheese. The interior is a bright golden colour with a soft creamy texture. The taste is full and rich, similar to but stronger than brie, with subtle depths and flavours. As the cheese ripens the colour deepens, the flavour becomes stronger and the cheese begins to 'run' like thick Jersey cream.

Goldilocks is made at Tree Tops Farm, an 80-acre organic farm lying in a small valley overlooking the River Brue near Bruton. Daisy & Co is a herd of 40 pedigree Jersey cows.

Available in most good delis and food stores. Tel 01749 850254 or visit

Tymsboro Goats

(soft, goats' milk, medium)

This is the one of the cheeses that Mary Holbrook makes regularly using milk from her own herd at Timsbury, near Bath.

The cheese is shaped like a truncated pyramid and coated in ash. It is made as many French farmhouse cheeses to benefit from ripening, and is ready in around three to five weeks. It has a typical, mild goaty taste and a smooth texture; as it becomes more mature the flavour becomes more pungent.

Available from good delis. Tel 01761 470620

Why not give a cheesy gift?

There's always someone difficult to buy for. What could be more unusual than unwrapping a wheel of Somerset brie or a wedge of the finest West Country Farmhouse Cheddar? A good deli will usually wrap the cheese in pretty, old-fashioned paper that needs little titivating. So nip down to your local deli or cheese counter and put together your own selection. It would certainly beat another pair of socks.

For more about the cheeses or to order online go to


More from Food & Drink

Fri, 11:22

Excited guests gathered to celebrate the region’s food and drink industry at the annual Somerset Life Food & Drink Awards…and here we announce the worthy winners

Read more
Thursday, July 19, 2018

For the ‘Pub of the Year’, readers nominated establishments that offer exceptional food and drink including a wide range of locally brewed real ales. It also needed to have a menu which champions local food and provide a warm welcome to all

Read more
Tue, 11:12

Barrel-aged beers, small batch nanobrews, even breeding their own hops, Somerset’s craft brewers are building a reputation for innovation, discovers Chris Allsop

Read more
Tue, 11:09

By popular request, Sandy Ince of Sticky Toffee Jazz is back!

Read more
Tue, 10:37

Supper Club II at Candlelight Inn Blackdown Hills on the 31st October 2018.

Read more
Mon, 14:56

An award-winning pub where a warm welcome awaits with lots of good, local produce.

Read more

If there’s one way to wake people up and get a message across, it’s staging a world record breaking attempt.

Read more
Friday, September 28, 2018

When a town can boast having three community orchards offering free fruit for all, you know you’ve arrived somewhere special. Laurence McJannet marches to Wellington for some culinary surprises

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

As well as free talks and workshops, there will be ticketed masterclasses and food-related arts and crafts

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Two city bankers ditched their corporate careers to run a pub and found a clever way to fund it

Read more
Sunday, September 9, 2018

Succulent mussels, freshly caught fish, crispy fried whitebait and decadent lobster…is your mouth watering yet? We pick 12 charming spots in Somerset serving up menus of delectable seafood

Read more
Thursday, September 6, 2018

4-course ‘feast’ with full wine flight on 30th September 2018, 12:30

Read more
Thursday, September 6, 2018

4-course ‘feast’ with full wine flight on 29th September 2018, 19:00

Read more
Thursday, September 6, 2018

4-course ‘feast’ with full wine flight on 28th September 2018, 19:00

Read more
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

subscription ad

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search