As the leaves start to turn amber and russet red and there's a twinge of a cold snap in the mornings,
yet still patches of sparkling sunlight, it's time to pack away the Burrata and mild Provençal goats cheeses and delight in great Autumnal cheeses about to hit our counter.
The end of summer marks the start of the all-important Mont D'Or cheese season. Mont D'Or is only made between mid-August and early March with the rich, cream-laden cows milk produced by the alpine cows who have been happily grazing away all summer long on alpine flowers on sun-baked mountain tops. The fat-rich cows milk is not plentiful enough to make wheels of Comtés, hence the Vacherin cheesemakers created Mont D'Or - as the name suggests made in the shadow of the Mont D'Or mountain in France and brought us a rich, rind-washed cheese wrapped in spruce bark. Eat it like the Swiss where they spoon it straight out of the bark, or like the French baked in an oven with a sprig of Rosemary. This is a cheese crying out for a dish of freshly dug potatoes and caramelised onions or just divine on a hunk of baguette.
Further afield the Autumn equinox heralds the release of 2021's Rogue River Blue, world champion cheese of the 2019 World Cheese Awards from the Oregon-based Rogue Creamery in the USA. A world champion cheese from the USA we hear you mutter, yes it was a surprise and a delight when the USA proved it could make more than Monterey Jack, and the mild blue creamy cheese wrapped in pear brandy-soaked vine leaves left to mature for 11 months (hence this year's being the 2021 vintage) is released. Rogue River Blue has a decadent, boozy flavour and you only need a little slither to for a tasty treat, which is lucky as it's price per kilo makes a UK mortgage look competitively priced. It is a notoriously difficult cheese to find in the UK, though we were lucky to feast on wedges of it in the summer travelling through Oregon, but we will be doing our best to secure some for Gershon & Sons, if we can.
September heralds the return of Stonebeck Wensleydale - a seasonal farmhouse Wensleydale made in the Yorkshire dale of Nidderdale by Andrew & Sally Hatton. Andrew and Sally set about turning Low Riggs, an isolated hill farm with 460 acres of severely disadvantaged land into a thriving cheese business. Impressively they are not only making the first (of three) farmhouse Wensleydale revival cheeses (the other two being Yoredale made by Ben & Sam Spence and Whin Yeats made by Clare & Tom Noblet) but they are also reviving a near-extinct Yorkshire breed of cows - Northern Dairy Shorthorns - who are quite happy grazing the challenging fields, some of which are now bio-diverse with over 25 varieties of plants and flowers now growing in them - no wonder the Wensleydale tastes so great! Andrew & Sally only make cheese around 200 days per year, because they only use the milk for cheese when the cows are grazing on grass - so mid-October sees the return to silage for the cows. Sally even hand-stitches every calico binding on each cheese - it's a Wensleydale made with love and care for sure.
Closer to home windy Chiltern walks, provide the perfect excuse for one of our all-time favourite lunches - the humble cheese on toast. However if you make cheese on toast with the very best cheddar (our favourite for this is Pitchfork Cheddar made by the Trethowan Brothers down in Somerset), a slice or three of artisan sourdough bread toasted and add a dash of Worcester Sauce or a smear of Spicy Pear Chutney (taste the fiery spicy twist in the after-bite) or a generous splodge of Truffle Marmite (my current guilty pleasure) you have an elevated lunch snack and no one will be wanting only one slice....so make plenty!