Chiswick Cheese Market – with 150 artisan cheeses, what to choose?

Image above: Chiswick Cheese Market; photograph Jennifer Griffiths

Guest blog by Cheesewick organiser Lucy Cufflin

It was dark, foggy and damp as our stall holders arrived for January Cheesewick – but as the fog lifted the customers arrived and a busy market day was had by all.

What caught my eye in January at Cheesewick? One of my favourites was in my shopping bag early was Pevensey Blue from Fay at the Big Wheel Cheese stall – this is a creamy, tangy, delectable blue cheese that never fails to bring a smile to my face.

It’s the only cheese the Pevensey cheese company produce, and this husband-and-wife team have spent years perfecting this cheese. It’s excellent!

Images above: Pevensey Blue cheese

Then a new cheese to me from Roberto at ‘The French Comte’ stall – ‘Le Mothais sur Feuille’ – a soft cow’s milk cheese from the Ile de Re off the west coast of France. This cheese did not disappoint – it was very young and chalky when I bought it so I resisted it for 2 weeks and gosh it was worth the wait – for lovers of St. Marcellin or St. Felicien this is a must try, but it is much more succulent than either of these and has almost a double cream flavour going on. I’ll be back for more of that in February that’s for sure.

I can never resist Quickes’ Mary’s reserve cheddar from Heritage Cheese – nutty, strong and excellent to nibble or be greedy with. Eat it as it is, but to cook with is out of this world. (A note here – one thing I have learned over the seven months of being part of Cheesewick is not to keep a block of cheap cheese for cooking – believe me when you have had a toastie made with Mary’s Reserve you will realise the joy of simple dishes when the ingredients are sublime- for me there is no going back).

Images above: Le Mothais sur Feuille from The French Comte stall; Quickes’ Mary’s reserve cheddar from Heritage Cheese

Several new cheeses from Scotland especially with Burn’s night on mind – the heralded and aptly named, ‘Minger’, the unctuous ‘Morangie Brie’ and fabulous ‘Blue Murder’ – look out for them again in February.

But before you think that after seven Cheesewick markets I might have seen it all, tasted it all and bought most of it I tell you NO, there is always something at every single cheese market that I have never seen before – and so it was at Bianca Mora stall where I spotted a strange ovoid shaped cheese labelled ‘cave pecorino’ – A ‘formaggio di fossa’ explained Ewa who owns the stall.

Images above: ‘Minger’ and ‘Morangie Brie’ from Scotland

It’s literal translation of is ‘cheese from the pit’ – OK interest piqued, and I needed to know more… A once-a-year cheese made with the summer ewes milk in the Emilia region of Italy.

Fresh cheeses are loaded into pits hewn out of volcanic rock. The pits are lined with hay and herbs and the cheeses piled on top of each other. Then the top is covered with a wooden board and the edges sealed with a sandy cement to block out all air.

A very special kind of fermentation then takes place in the vacuum – cheese, hay, herbs and all the bacteria build over time in the pit or ‘cave’.  So, there it stays unopened for three months and on St Catherine’s day in November the seals are broken (the smell is heady apparently) the cheese is then removed. It loses around a third of its original weight and has taken the shape of the space it occupies piled up with the other cheese so no two cheeses are the same.

Images above: cave pecorino at Bianca Mora stall

Flavour? Well I have to say it’s extraordinary – Ewa’s cheese was a dry-ish texture but still quite young so it is whitish rather than yellowy which these cheeses can be. It is basically a pecorino but not like any I have ever tasted before.

First flavour in the mouth – strong and tangy but seconds later the mushroomy, slightly winey, nutty flavours come through. Probably what an aficionado might call ‘complex flavours’ I guess. Perfectly bold enough to enjoy it in its own but marry it with honey or even a fruit compote and something even more exciting starts to happen Never tried it? Then you must – but beware there are some more mass produced formaggio di fossa out there so check with your cheesemonger that what you are buying is the real thing!

This was just my tiny glimpse of over 150 Artisan cheeses on offer at Cheesewick – quite overwhelming on a first visit for any cheese lover but as regulars will tell you, it is good to see favourites come back but there is always something new to try, not forgetting the chutneys, hand-made cheese boards, crackers and much much more.

The next Chiswick Cheese Market takes place on Sunday 20 February. These are the stallholders who will be taking part:

Cheese producers and mongers

The French Comte – Mont d’Or plus a fabulous array of French Alpine cheeses.

Nut Knowle Farm – 14 varieties of Sussex handmade goat’s cheese from a single herd.

Bath Cheese Co.  – Award-winning organic cheese made by hand at Park Farm, Kelston near Bath with milk from their own cows.

No. 2 Pound Street –  Fabulous cheesemonger and Cheese Academy tutor brings 3 different cheeses with great stories to every market.

La Latteria – Thee Olive Tree – local, West London mozzarella and burrata.

Heritage Cheese – slow food British & Irish cheesemonger – plus British charcuterie.

Gastronomica – Artisanal Italian cheeses and amazing charcuterie.

Emilia – famous Red Cow 32 month aged Parmesan and Italian charcuterie.

Big Wheel Cheese – cheeses from the ‘Sussex Golden Triangle’ including Pevensey Blue and Baron Bigod from Suffolk.

Cheese on the Wey – small batch artisan cheese from Farnham.

Palace Culture – exceptional vegan cheese – smoked, truffle, blue and Kimcheeze, awarded 2 stars at the Great Taste Awards.

Drunk Cheese – wine, grape and eau de vie steeped cheeses.

Roi Queiruga – Trethowan Bros Pitchfork Cheddar and Gorwydd Caerphilly – big winners at The World Cheese Awards 2021.

Batch Farm – Somerset waxed truckles of Farmhouse cheddar and goats cheese in a range of flavours.

Dorset Dairy – Fresh milk bring your bottles for a refill service!

Cheese accompaniments

Beans World – Cold pressed rapeseed oil and specialist Italian vinegars.

The Olive Bar – feta, saucisson, nuts, dried fruits, antipasti and olives.

Love Fermented – local kimchis and pickles – home made and unpasteurised.

Dispensamor – Italian sauces and Italian honey.

Cheese accoutrements

Rooms & Roots – vintage kitchenalia including cheese boards and linens.

Cheesewick recipe

To entice you to come and try out different cheeses, the organisers are offering their top recipe recommendations in collaboration with cookbook website

See Neil Perry’s recipe for the best Macaroni cheese here: Cheesewick recipes – Macaroni cheese

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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