Who can say, honestly, that they enjoy food shopping in a supermarket? It has become a necessary evil as far as I’m concerned and, if it weren’t for the simple reason that I can get most of the household stuff I need under one roof, I would stay well away. There are usually (depending on the quality of the supermarket) four counters worth a look: fish, meat, cooked meats and cheese.
If you’re really lucky, some cheeses may have escaped the tortuous cling-filmed, vacuum packed, fate of others and actually resemble real cheese; not scrunched-up chamois leathers that have been left in the car-wash bucket overnight. (Health and safety, hygiene food standards, rules and regulations must apply, of course.) You may even be able to smell a cheesy smell and, joy of joys, be allowed to taste a sliver of your chosen one (or whatever’s on special offer.) Do it!
Wave your Deli ticket with abandon; forget the shopping list. Try a supermarket cheese experience. Amongst the cheaper, scientifically-produced objects, there are some pre-packaged cheese gems on offer in supermarkets; it depends what you’re prepared to pay and what you expect from your cheese. If you have the planet in mind, consider the type and amount of packaging used, too.
Take Time to Read the Labels
They may bear the red tractor symbol; which should indicate that the cheese is produced in Britain;
Organic cheeses will have the relevant logo and authenticity stamp;
Vegetarian and Vegan cheeses will also display their right to be labelled as such;
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) leave no doubt as to where the product came from;
Ingredients used, calorific content, warnings of possible allergic contamination and conditions of packaging information, along with use by date and storage instructions, are all there for our consideration.
You’re on your own when you buy cheese ‘off the shelf’ but, if you have a knowledgeable server on the cheese counter, don’t be afraid to ask questions; you could learn something new.
If you’re lucky enough to have a specialist cheese shop in your area, but haven’t yet tried it, make a point of doing so; compare the experience and quality with your usual cheese source.
Just walking through the door that first time will convince you there is a huge difference as your senses are reawakened… Farm shops and farmers’ markets, likewise, are good places to try before you buy. The whole buzz of being in the company of people whose lives revolve around wheels of cheese, whose dedication and knowledge of their products can educate and inspire us to break through our cheese barriers!
Make your ‘cheese shopping’ part of an exclusive day out if it’s not that close to home. Slow down a little and enjoy at least one part of your food shopping!
(There may even be one of the wonderfully eccentric cheese events on. If a man, dressed as something out of Star Wars or similar-who is prepared to run about chasing a lump of cheese – doesn’t do it for you, then you’ve lost your sense of the ridiculous!)
Mail Order Cheese
This is one way of having the best of both worlds. If you’ve previously let your senses loose in a specialist cheese shop – or simply know what you like – then this could mean that you get exactly which cheeses you fancy without having to go anywhere. Mail order cheese is becoming increasingly popular.
For the cheese-lovers in your life, a selection of traditional, hand-made cheeses from a mail order company can make a perfect gift. So, whether you buy your cheese from the supermarket, local shop or by mail order, celebrate the craft of cheese-making and be prepared to spend a little extra for cheese that is (more than a little) extra special.
If you fancy something different, ask your cheese expert: there are now more than 450 unique British cheeses made from cow, goats, ewes, or even buffalo milk!
With apparent concern about using unpasteurised milk and all the other rules and regulations that cheese makers have to deal with, I leave you with a quote from Randolph Hodgson, founder member of the Specialist Cheese-makers’ Association. He says he is, ‘concerned that we are reaching a point where over-hygienic production will prevent us using some of the traditional cheese-making methods which are crucial for making good cheese.’ Imagine the blandness of a world without traditionally-crafted cheese.