Friday, May 23, 2014

Collier's Powerful Welsh Cheddar

This cheese became an instant phenomenon here a couple weeks ago when I served it at a Friday evening tasting.  While I had been stocking the 7oz packages for a few years and putting them in gift baskets as a superior alternative to the shelf stable spreads, I never tasted them out because the baskets were always too efficient for moving the product.  Two weeks ago I had one package left in the deli and it had gone out of date so I cut it up, served it, and was stunned by the reaction!

I guess Collier's really is about as good as it gets in Cheddar.  Our go-to Cheddar as a rule has been the Widmer's Four Year Old from Wisconsin which is great but Collier's is creamier and doesn't have the yellow color added.  Collier's doesn't say its age anywhere on the package or elsewhere but boasts of its "balance of savoury and sweet" components "selected to ensure an extraordinary taste sensation" and...there's that delectable crunch at work there too.

Typically I don't think of Cheddar as a wine accompaniment.  I think beer.  Collier's, however, recommends theirs with citrussy wines and I think I get that.  The night of the hubbub about the cheese we were serving the most citrussy of all wines, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, amongst others, and the cheese seemed to fit in just fine with most everything being offered.

From their website: Collier's is a pasteurized cow's milk cheese from Denbighshire in North Wales.  It is a single recipe, single creamery cheddar that celebrates the coal mining industrial heritage of the working people there and this is where it gets interesting: The cheese celebrates the "comaraderie and strength of the coal miners" who were called..."colliers"!

I guess we've all heard about the hard life of coal miners.  Appropriately perhaps, eighty percent of the plastic wrapping around the cheese loaf is pitch black with the remainder being cream and white print along with two small wedges of cheese with a knife.  The only other image on the packaging is the bleak dirty face of a helmeted miner looking hopelessly beaten up by life with a gaze that sears right through you.  "Powerful" in this context is an understatement.

Again from their website: The miners worked in difficult conditions in semi-darkness with their midday cheese sandwich meal in the mine often being the highlight of their day. The cheese, by the way, is a rough 4" x 4" in a 14" long loaf.  The 7oz wrapped gift basket components were segments of the loaves.  Those 4" x 4" dimensions, if you think about it, would actually afford a perfect fit on a slice of bread with no waste for the family on a budget.

Both of my grandfathers were copper miners in Upper Michigan.  My mother, who learned from her mother, used to make cheese in the kitchen when I was a kid.  I wonder if those miners carried their cheese sandwiches into the mines like the guys in Wales?

Join us for next Friday's tasting.  Nothing is scheduled at this time but I am being offered special pricing on Californians so that is the tentative direction right now.  Also please become a "follower" here so I'll not feel like a coal miner in the dark here.

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