Just sixty years ago, Britain’s cheese industry was in a pretty poor state. The Second World War and its rationing system had forced all cheesemakers, both big and small, to produce a single type of cheese called Government Cheddar – meaning all the unique farmhouse varieties ceased to exist.
However, as the regulations were relaxed, different varieties – both old and new – began to reappear on shop shelves. Traditional favourites such as Cheshire and Red Leicester were made alongside modern cheeses such as Cornish Yarg and Stichelton. Today, the UK is home to some of the best cheeses in the world, and is held in the same high regard as curd and rennet heavyweights such as France and Italy.
With all these new varieties appearing in farm shops, delis, cheese counters and supermarkets up and down the country, any self-confessed fromageophile should know the differences between the five main categories British cheeses fall under. Here’s a basic introduction, so you can instantly tell whether Stinking Bishop is classed as semi-soft or soft, when a goat’s cheese is deemed fresh, or why the majority of traditional British cheeses (known as ‘territorials’) fall into the hard category.