It’s the first cheese review of the year, and I am starting with one of my favourites. It’s probably a cop out to talk about a cheese I know and love, but I have some in the fridge so here we go.
Every time I return home to see my family, I undertake what is a now a traditional raid on my mother’s fridge, food cupboards and wine rack.
I think it originates from my time at university when the highlight of the maternal visit was an all-expenses paid trip to Morrisons, where the largest trolley would be selected, filled and generously gifted to the poor and needy student who had spent all his money on beer.
Nowadays I find a big box or a cool bag and under the protesting gaze of my mother I fill it with charcuterie, organic veg, left over cake, a nice Picpoul de Pinet or whatever I can find. There is always cheese involved, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree and I am convinced that this love of cheese is inheritable.
My latest supermarket-sweep style home visit to see parents, siblings and nephews and nieces was exceptionally well timed. Two days after Christmas, when leftovers are still plentiful, but the novelty of special festive purchases has worn off. The fridge was still groaning with produce and at home, mine was expectantly empty.
I was shepherded away from the New Years Eve champagne towards the cheese shelf and immediately the striking colour of Belton Farm Red Fox Vintage Red Leicester caught my eye. My mother being a compulsive food buyer and the matriarch of a large and hungry family, had bought a kilogram of it.
This boded well for the handpicked hamper that was travelling back with me next to the dog in the boot. I was graciously awarded a decent wedge of the cheese amongst a few other interesting samples and was sent on my merry way, looking forward to eating a cheese board for lunch for the next few weeks.
I get ahead of myself though, this cheese is so aesthetically pleasing. Underneath the fantastically branded packaging is a Red Leicester that barks out a warning of its bold flavour with its vibrant russet.
When sliced, the cheese crumbles away in shards and flakes like slate off a Welsh mountain. At this point it is impossible not to eat a morsel and the buttered cracker on my plate is rendered useless. The Red Fox doesn’t lend itself to neat slices, but it certainly suits the slicing and eating then slicing some more method of consumption.
It has a depth of flavour worthy of its colour and popularity. The salty crystalline crunch is pure pleasure and gives a rustic and robust punch to the palate. It is simultaneously smooth and sharp, there is a creaminess to it, as a Red Leicester should have and the taste lingers, an intensified nutty flavour that is unquestionably moreish.
Fast forward to a few days later, it is time for me to critically consider the cheese in question. It is lunchtime and I have come in from outside ready to satisfy my savoury craving.
There is no doubt I will reflect on the virtues of the various cheese vehicle options available, but all you need to know now is that I selected a Carr’s Table Water biscuit to transport the Red Fox from the plate to my mouth.
When it comes to rating cheese, this is in the top band. I have no method in place, just my opinion on the day. It’s a five star, 10 out of 10, top notch champion cheese that I will continue to enjoy as long as they make it.
To crowbar some puns into this review and form some sort of five point scale, I have come up with the following. Although there is no guarantee I will be able to stomach using it un-ironically in future reviews:
☆ Camem-bare it
☆☆ Cheesed off