Sunday, 22 April 2018

22nd April - 2018 - Cheese - and the Nose

Thought for the day:" Death causes loneliness, feeling of isolation"
(Real Newspaper Headlines)

While out dining I was presented with a crisis of etiquette with which I had not previously been aware.
Upon the Cheeseboard there was a slab of Cheddar - in a triangular shape and it fell to me to be the first at the Cheese....
Without ceremony - I took the kitchen knife upon the board and chopped the end off the Cheddar - working from the pointy end as being good manners not to take too much and started towards the Stilton (also triangularly presented...)

I should point out that I was in the company of my Welsh companions but also gentlemen from the North of England in general - Cheshire in particular....

This very normal behaviour of mine went unnoticed and unremarked by my welsh compatriots....    but I became aware of a minor consternation from my left - more particularly drawn to my attention by the shocked expression "YOU CUT OFF THE NOSE!!!!"  and an apparently shared horror from other northern folk!!

Now, I am pretty well up on my manners and etiquette in most cases. I know to choose my cutlery from the outside in, to slurp my soup to the rear and the custard to the front of the bowl, to pass the salt by placing on the table and never by hand, (to taste the food before applying salt - but that is another story), to set the cutlery properly together to indicate that I have finished - but cutting the nose off was new to me!!!

Particularly as it seemed to be such shocking behaviour from the reaction of those at my table.
Indeed, I am immediately regaled with a story of a formal dinner "oop" north, where the action of one diner taking similar action had led to the cheese being sent back to the kitchens and demands for fresh!!!

Well, I enjoyed my Cheese and biscuits anyway, but lest I was falling down in my general behaviour I thought I should check where this shock and concern arose.....

And... I should have known it ... It is the French once again!!!

and - I will admit I feel quite exonerated for the actions I took since it was to a good old British Cheddar - though I would have taken similar action to the more  pungent Stilton.....

For, as you will see below should you wish to read the whole article, this all comes form the smelly and runny Brie.. Please do not allow my own preferences to drive you away from this appalling travesty of the art of cheese-making - but the custom appears to derive from the fact that the French are unable to produce a cheese which has a constant quality throughout the cheese.

It seems that the Brie matures better at the centre of the runny slab, so when it is cut out into wedges, the "pointy end" is the best of the cheese and the circumference is the poorer quality.
It therefore follows that anyone deciding to cut of the prime part - at the pointy bit or "nose" is in effect saying - "I will take for myself the finest part of the cheese and leave the rest of you the rubbish!!"
Such behaviour is understandably reprehensible - were it not for the fact that even the finest mature brie from the centre is still pretty rubbish!!!

But - for a decent British Cheese the problem does not arise. Indeed, there is no need to serve it in wedges at all - and often it is not so served, as with Red Leicester and indeed a decent Caerphilly or that Northern delicacy the Cheshire Cheese.....

And so, without apology I will continue to act in my role of Nose Cutter for the cheeses with which I am familiar and enjoy and leave the French to their own devices ...

and that's why we hate the French - Rowan Atkinson 

How to cut cheese

There’s an art to cutting cheese – do it right and you’ll ensure the best taste in every slice.

Of course, the size and shape of your cheese will dictate how it is cut, but you’ll also need to bear in mind the texture. If you’re cutting a creamy cheese like Brie, you want to ensure everyone gets a bit of the centre. When it comes to firmer cheeses like Cheddar or Stilton, you’ll want to ensure they’re equally divided and that you’re not left with an odd-shaped wedge which is impossible to cut.

Of course, it certainly helps if you have the right cheese knife for the type of cheese you are cutting. Soft cheese knives are usually designed with holes in the blade to more effectively handle the gooey textures. A small Hatchet knife is great cutting hard cheese such as Gouda, Parmesan or mature Cheddar and a hard cheese knife will make light work of cutting a Double Gloucester or Red Leicester. A Stilton Scoop is perfect for scooping your Stilton out of one of our iconic Stilton Jars. Some cheeses even has their own special equipment such as a Cheese Curler for a Tete de Moine. Cheese knives can be bought individually or as sets - take a look at our cheese knife collection and utensils and tools.

1. Round Cheese

Camembert, Reblochon, Selles sur Cher , Langres, Goddess, Fourme d’Ambert plus many of our soft cheeses or washed rind cheeses.
Many of our individual cheeses are this shape. Cut a round cheese into equal wedges by slicing it first across the middle, then making further cuts across the width of the cheese. You will get more cuts out of the larger cheeses such as Reblochon compared to the smaller goats cheeses such as Selles sur Cher.

2. Hard Rinded Rectangular Cheese

Sharpham Rustic, Double Gloucester, Berkswell, Ticklemore, Gubbeen, Cheddar.
To preserve the shape and the life of the cheese, slices should be cut lengthwise from the nose to the edge. Given that many of these cheeses are also irregular shapes, it also ensures that you, or your guests, don’t mangle the cheese or cut off their fingers.

3. Hard Rinded Rectangular Cheese

Gouda, Comte, Red Leicester
When handling a rinded, rectangular cheese, it’s best to avoid making long, thin slices. Instead, begin by making 2 portions by cutting the cheese horizontally, about a third of the way down. With the remaining larger portion, cut slices across the width of the cheese. From the smaller portion, cut slices along what would have been the length of the cheese when it was intact.

4. Soft triangular shaped cheese
(Filthy French Stuff)

Brie de Meaux, Stinking Bishop,
Ideally everyone should get a piece of the ‘nose’ from a slice of Brie, but it’s not a practical way to cut this gooey cheese. Instead, take one slice from the nose, then you can make several long cuts from the edge towards where the nose used to be, ensuring everyone gets a bit of goo.

5. Pyramid or Square Cheese

Cerney, Dorstone, Pont L’Eveque
Cut a pyramid or square cheese as you would a round cheese. So begin by slicing the cheese down the middle, then making a two further slices at 45° angles.

6. Wedge of Blue Cheese

Stilton, Shropshire Blue, Perl Las, Roquefort, Beauvale
The key is to ensure everyone receives an equal amount of ‘blueness’ in each slice. So make diagonal cuts at the two high corners and further cuts along the length of the cheese.

7. Log-shaped Cheese

Aldwych, Ragstone, Bosworth Ash
Slice a log-shaped cheese horizontally to create several small ‘rounds’.

Rind - to eat or not to eat?
Once you have cut your cheese, you can then consider whether to eat the rind. The rind is the outer layer that forms on the cheese during the cheese-making process. There are three main types:

Bloomy rinds

Bloomy rinds are white and soft and found on cheeses like Camembert or Brie. They form when cheesemakers spray an edible mould onto the cheese.

Washed rinds

Washed rinds form when the cheeses are bathed regularly with a bacterial solution during the ageing process, found on cheeses like Stinking Bishop, Epoisses and Goddess.

Natural rinds

Natural rinds form as a result of the temperature and humidity of the rooms where the cheeses are aged, found on cheeses like Parmesan and Stilton. A number of our traditional British territorial cheeses are wrapped with cloth once made. The cloth is removed once the cheese is ready to eat and the natural rind is left.

Whether you eat rind or not is purely a matter of personal preference – every cheese is different, as is everyone’s sense of taste. The rind on some cheeses, like Parmesan, is usually just too hard to be enjoyable, but we would suggest that for most cheeses, you simply give it a try.

We would also recommend you try a small piece of the cheese just underneath the rind as this is usually one of the most delicious parts.

However, eating cheese is about enjoying cheese, so eat what you want and leave what you don’t!

Well - I have had a wonderful day out today in the Provincial Sunday Lunch for the Order of Athelstan, and the added benefit that my wife was happy to drive..  We are about to sit down to watch the Antiques Road Show, and chop the noses off some Cheese with biscuits (unsalted) and a glass of Port ...


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