It’s blue skies and sunshine out there today and BBQ season is well underway. We’re getting into the spirit with our cheese showcase this week – smoked cheese.
The precise origins of smoked cheese are unknown however as with some of the best things it is thought to have been discovered by accident. Most food historians agree that an ancient cheesemonger kept their product close to a wood burning fire and noticed that it gave the cheese a distinct smoky flavour and the much loved smoked cheese was born.
Today there are many ways of smoking cheese from traditional wood fires to modern smokers and the futuristic method of ‘liquid smoke’ being incorporated in the cheese-making process. The intensity of the heat and the variety of wooden chips used both have an impact on the overall smokiness imparted into the cheese. Below we’ve listed some of our favourite smoked cheeses from local favourites to much loved classics.
This smoked mature cheddar originates as Quicke’s well flavoured mature Cheddar. Matured for 12-15 months it is then naturally cold smoked over oak chips from trees grown on the Quicke’s estate for up to four hours, during which time the cheese develops a subtle, smoky flavour. This cheese is available in both catering 1.2kg blocks and 150g retail packs.
The Dorset Red from Ford Farm Cheesemakers is a smooth cheese enriched with natural annatto for a distinct deep amber colour. Made to their traditional Cheddar recipe the cheese is then cold smoked over oak chips overnight leaving a mellow, smoky flavour and soft texture. This cheese is available in 1.2kg blocks and 150g retail packs.
This traditional smoked Cheddar from Carron Lodge is cold smoked for up to 24 hours over oak chippings resulting in a delicate smoked flavour and rich golden colour. It is available in 1.kg blocks and 150g retail packs.
It seems that the origin of most innovative creations come from human error. Take the story of how blue cheese came into being; it is thought that a drunken cheese maker left behind a half eaten loaf of bread in moist cheese caves. On his return he discovered the mold covering the bread had transformed it into a blue cheese and the rest is history! Today this naturally occurring mold has been refined and cultivated and almost all blue cheeses are now made by adding this to milk during the cheese making process. The cheese is pierced during maturation which allows air to react with the mold and results in the characteristic blue veining common in most blue cheeses.
Blue cheese is one of our favourite varieties with flavour profiles ranging from mellow and creamy to sharp and tangy, below we explore some of our bestselling blue cheeses.
Perhaps one of the best known of the blue cheeses our Stilton is produced by the Tuxford & Tebbutt Creamery, one of only six creameries in the UK permitted under the EU Protected Designation of Origin status to produce traditional Blue Stilton. It is a rich, complex cheese with a smooth creaminess when young developing into a tangy sharpness when mature. The texture is light and crumbly with a straw-like colour and dark blue veining throughout. We like this crumbled over salads with pear and walnuts or stirred into creamy pasta with some mushrooms or bacon. The cheese is available in whole 4kg rounds and 200g retail packs, click here for more info.
Dorset Blue Vinny
Dorset Blue Vinny was once made in almost every farmhouse in Dorset until the Second World War when production died out. The cheese was resurrected in the 1980’s using a 300 year old recipe and is today made on Woodbridge Farm by Michael Davies. This is a lovely, mellow blue cheese with a creamy, crumbly texture. Due to its artisan production the colour varies greatly from cheese to cheese, typically it is a deep yellow on the outside with a much lighter, creamy colouring towards the centre and dark blue/green veining throughout. Try this in a creamy leek and potato soup or on some crackers with a light, fruity chutney. The Blue Vinny is available in whole 3kg rounds and 150g retail packs, click here for more info.
Made by Robin Congden of Ticklemore Cheese in Totnes, the Devon Blue is produced by hand using cows’ milk sourced from a local farmers co-operative. This is a moist, crumbly cheese with buttery, clean flavours and soft texture. As the cheese matures it develops slightly sweet, caramel tones resulting in an intriguing, complex cheese. The colour of Devon Blue is pale and creamy with subtle blue veining throughout. Try this in a savoury cheesecake with walnuts and rosemary or in a warming blue cheese and broccoli soup with chunky bread. Devon Blue is available in whole 3.5kg rounds and 130g retail packs, click here for more info.
Blue cheeses are wildly different and their astonishing range of flavours mean we will never tire of trying new ones.
Here in Devon we are extremely lucky to have so many fantastic local producers on our doorstep – from artisan cheeses and bespoke blended teas to quality sausages and handmade puddings. In a time when consumers are increasingly concerned with low food miles and the provenance of their food, locality and the ‘shop local’ campaign have never been more apt. With this in mind we are producing a blog series on our local producers and their delicious products, this week focusing on Wessex Country Gammons.
Established in 1987 at Vine Close Farm in Wimborne, Dorset, Wessex Country Gammons began as a producer of quality cooked hams before expanding their range to include beef, turkey and continental deli meats. Hams are very much still the focus with a range including honey glazed, hickory smoked, golden breadcrumb and natural ham. Extreme care is taken to ensure that all of their meat is sourced from RSPCA assured farms with the highest welfare standards ensuring the best taste for their customers.
We currently stock their whole 3kg cooked gammon ham, whole 3kg honey roasted gammon ham and sliced retail gammon hams available in 250g and 500g packs and the whole range is available to view here.
Here in Devon we are extremely lucky to have so many fantastic local producers on our doorstep – from artisan cheeses and bespoke blended teas to quality sausages and handmade puddings. In a time when consumers are increasingly concerned with low food miles and the provenance of their food, locality and the ‘shop local’ campaign have never been more apt. With this in mind we are producing a blog series on our local producers and their delicious products, this week focusing on Olive’s Kitchen.Olive’s Kitchen are producers of gourmet, handmade meals freshly made by husband and wife team Charlie and Nikki Allhusen from their converted barn in Sherbourne, Dorset. The business was established in 2013 as a deli and soon customers began asking for homemade meals that they could take home and reheat for themselves – allowing them to eat a healthy, nutritious meal with the ease and convenience of fast food. In 2016 after developing a reputation for their delicious meals, Charlie and Nikki made the decision to close the deli and concentrate fully on Olive’s Kitchen. They converted a barn near their home which became headquarters and began developing the range available today.
We currently stock a wide range of the Olive’s Kitchen products including the rich and succulent Beef Bourguignon made using locally sourced beef slow cooked in a red wine sauce and creamy Fish Pie made using sustainable smoked haddock, salmon and cod in a creamy sauce with leeks and spinach, topped with buttery mash and toasted breadcrumbs. We are particularly fond of their dessert range which includes deliciously spiced Apple Crumble with a crunchy oat topping and the decadently gooey Chocolate Brownie with an irresistible melt in the middle centre.
All of the Olive’s Kitchen range is made using traditional family methods and techniques alongside locally sourced ingredients to create the good honest food that their customers would expect if they cooked the meals themselves. Click here to view the whole range.
A recent report by the British Frozen Food Federation claimed that sales of frozen food are expected to exceed £10 billion by 2025. This immense industry growth is due in part to environmental pressures and the idea of producing less food waste but also the growing idea of ‘locking in’ the nutritional value of fresh ingredients while making healthy meals that are quick, easy and convenient for consumers.
Olive’s Kitchen began as a deli in Sherborne, Dorset in 2013. However demand soon grew for owners Charlie and Nikki’s own home-cooked meals and in 2016 they made the decision to close the deli and focus primarily on Olive’s Kitchen in their converted barn at home.
All of their products are made using traditional family methods and techniques as well as locally sourced ingredients, producing quality, home cooked food.
Their range includes delicious vegetarian dishes such as our favourite roasted butternut squash lasagne with spinach and ricotta and aubergine parmigiana in a rich tomato and basil sauce topped with a crunchy mozzerella and parmesan crust. As well as meaty favourites such as rich and hearty beef bourguignon and comforting ham, leek & cider pie topped with buttery puff pastry.
For more information and to view the entire range including their fresh pots visit: http://www.iscafoods.co.uk/frozen-gourmet-meals-olives-kitchen/
We have been smoking food for generations; using it to preserve food for long periods of time and for its tenderising and flavour carrying properties. It has been suggested that the recent resurgence of smoking food comes from a primeval attraction to fire and the memories it evokes, the smell of meat roasting on a BBQ is probably the modern equivalent of this as we imagine the delicious, tender meat we are about to eat. Cold smoking is generally used to smoke cured meats and fish as the temperature is usually kept between 20-30 degrees, meaning that the food being smoked is not cooked but merely infused with the smoky flavours. Hot smoking exposes the food to both heat and smoke and this is used to fully cook foods, creating moist meat and full, smoky flavours.
We stock a variety of smoked foods including the traditional cheese, fish, bacon and meats and we’ve listed some of our favourites below.
Our John Ross smoked salmon is cold smoked over oak chips in the same red brick kilns used in the 19th century. The smoking process produces succulent flavours and a tender texture in the salmon which is sustainably farmed in the pure, clear waters of Scotland. This is available in 100g packs ideal for 1-2 people. We source the rest of our smoked fish range from Jacksons Fishmongers of Newton Abbot who prepare and smoke the fish sourced from Brixham fish market in their own kiln. We currently stock their rich and meaty smoked mackerel, smoked mackerel with crushed black peppercorns, lightly smoked trout and the classic Victorian breakfast dish, butterflied smoked kippers.
We currently stock a variety of smoked cheeses all with varying degrees of smokiness and flavour. Based in the lush valley of Newton St Cyres near Exeter the Quicke’s Oak Smoked cloth-bound cheddar is one of our favourites. It is naturally cold smoked over oak chips from their own trees for up to four hours, creating a subtle smokiness that compliments the cheeses’ buttery flavours. Windyridge Cheese are artisan cheese makers based in Wincanton, Somerset. Their Bonfire Smoked cheese is made with smooth, creamy mature cheddar which is infused with rich, smoky flavours and dusted with paprika. The Dorset Red is made by Ford Farm Cheesemakers in Dorset. Their traditional mature cheddar is cold smoked over oak chips overnight which results in its distinctive smoky flavour and rich amber colour.
Our English cured smoked bacon is sourced from Devon Choice of Teignmouth, their bacon is full and rich in strong, smoky flavours which are great in pies, bacon sandwiches or a quiche Lorraine. The majority of our cured salamis are also lightly smoked including Danish, peppered and chorizo – our chorizo is also coated in smoked paprika for extra flavour.
We are delighted to announce that we are introducing a new range of branded pre-packs from Barber’s Cheese (Maryland) and Quicke’s of Devon from mid July. While we already stock both of these producers as both bulk and pre-packs we feel that the new branded packs will really stand out on your shelves and increase sales. These packs will be fixed weight and priced per block with branded labels, they will also not be price marked which will allow you to set your own prices.
Barber’s have been producing their award winning cheeses on Maryland Farm since 1833. Using traditional techniques and the finest West Country milk their skilled cheesemakers produce delicious farmhouse cheeses which are full of flavour and texture. Cheeses range from their Vintage Reserve, matured for 24 months with rich, complex flavours to Mellow, a creamy, smooth and buttery cheese and everything in between.
The Quicke’s have also been producing traditional Cheddars for over 500 years, combining the best West Country produce with time honoured techniques and the knowledge of their expert cheesemakers. Their cheeses are traditionally cloth bound and given varying maturation periods with the longest, the Vintage maturing for up to two years to fully develop its full bodied, intensely creamy, caramel flavours.
We will also be introducing some pre-packed flavoured cheeses from Ford Farm, another West Country Farmhouse cheesemaker established forty years ago and using recipes dating back over 600 years. Their traditional cave aged Wookey Hole Cheddar has received many accolades and has a distinctive earthy flavour due to being matured deep underground at the Wookey Hole Caves. Other cheeses included in this range are the Dorset Red – an oak smoked cheese, Double Gloucester with Chives and Onion and new to us the Coastal Cheddar – matured for at least 15 months with a distinctive crunch due to naturally forming calcium lactate crystals.
These branded pre-packs will be available from mid July so watch this space for more details!
It goes without saying that there is a huge difference in quality between traditional, hand made artisan cheeses and generic, industrial cheeses.
Cheeses that are made, shaped and nurtured by hand have more care and expertise go into them than the bog standard Cheddar. They are also, in most circumstances, either made using milk from the makers own herd or sourced locally. The result is cheese that varies in taste, texture and overall appearance throughout the year. A Cheddar made on a small farm in Somerset has a very different taste to Cheddar made anywhere else. In fact there are only six dairies worldwide that make West Country Farmhouse Cheddar with Protected Designation of Origin status. This award is an assurance of the quality and authenticity of the cheese; it has to be made using milk from the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Devon or Cornwall, it must be made using traditional techniques such as ‘cheddaring’ or turning the curds by hand and it must be matured for at least nine months.
In contrast many processed cheeses are uniformly made using milk from a large number of different dairies in a very controlled process. A factory will produce many different cheeses and because of this the milk goes through a number of processes such as heat treating to minimise spoilage before pasteurisation and removing much of the fat content. In farmhouse cheeses this fat is essential to the flavour and texture of the cheese; while it isn’t as good for your waistline, it’ll certainly taste a lot better!
Here at Isca Foods we are passionate about supporting small-scale dairies and their fantastic cheeses. It is important that the skills and time-honoured techniques needed to make them are not lost. This is why we are proud to say that almost all of our cheeses can be traced back to the farm in which they were made. Have a look at our cheese pages for more information.