Britain has overtaken France and Italy in the number of cheeses it manufactures. According to Juliet Harbutt, a global authority on cheese who organises the British Cheese Awards, about 700 varieties now boast a “Made in Britain” label. This is 100 more varieties than France produces, and twice as many as Italy.
Britain’s cheese-making renaissance began 20 years ago when many of the nation’s 200 specialist cheese companies started operations. The big reduction, 15 years ago, in the powers of the Milk Marketing Board, which had bought up most milk from producers, and the introduction of European Union milk quotas in the 1980s, both proved the spur for dairy farmers to look for other ways of using their core product.
The most famous of British cheeses is perhaps Cheddar, and some specialist varieties can sell for as much as 15 pounds a kilo (24 U.S. dollars). There are 10 families of British cheese, amongst them Cheshire, Stilton and Double Gloucester. However, British manufacturers have shown a rare skill in devising new recipes. But like any bespoke product, they are mainly produced in small production runs of just a few tonnes a year…
France’s postwar leader, General Charles de Gaulle once famously said, “How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?” Gordon Brown may be pondering the same question as he tucks into some Stilton during the festive break.
This won’t make any headway with folks whose only association with food in the UK is figuring out who ate all the pies at a football match in Wigan.