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Date added: 13 December 2012

Local Challenge To Stilton 

Sarah Hill Wheeler looks at a local cheese maker taking on a national favourite
For some of us, stilton is as much a part of Christmas as mince pies and bread sauce.

Like it or loath it, the blue-veined cheese has become a traditional gift for the men in our lives (often coupled with a bottle of port). The last few weeks of the year account for over half of the cheese’s annual sales.   

Local cheese-maker, Ceri Cryer, is set to capitalise on this trend by offering a more imaginative local alternative. Her Brinkworth Blue and Royal Bassett Blue cheeses, though less well known than Stilton, are flying off the shelves this Christmas. 

Ceri, who runs the Brinkworth Diary, makes cheese from her family’s herd of pedigree Friesians.

The Brinkworth Blue, Ceri’s personal favourite, is a creamy blue cheese. The Royal Bassett Blue is a medium strong soft blue cheese, which becomes spreadable as it ages. Sales of both are strong this December. Farmers’ markets, which account for 80% of Ceri’s sales, have been particularly busy.

Foodies are also adding Ceri’s North Wiltshire Loaf to their Christmas shopping lists. North Wiltshire’s only hard cheese, the Loaf is smooth and creamy on the outside, crumbly in the centre. 

The Loaf makes an innovative alternative gift to the more traditional tub of stilton. However, you can easily incorporate it into regular meals. Silvana de Soissons, of the Foodie Bugle, suggests adding it, grated, to risottos or a tomato and olive salad.

Ceri also makes soft cheese, which comes with a variety of herbs and spices on the outside (including Cajun flavour and Seven Pepper). These tend to be more popular in the summer. However, they would work well in a Christmassy starter.  Cheesy stuffed mushrooms, for example, or grilled with a cranberry dressing. 

Although currently most of her sales are direct, Ceri is looking to increase the number of retail and wholesale outlets for her cheeses. 

Two shops in Royal Wootton Bassett, Relish and Maddisons Grocers, now stock her produce.  At Maddisons, for an additional charge of £3, you can even create an individual cheese gift pack.

This Christmas, Ceri’s cheeses also feature on the menus of several local restaurants. These include the Three Crowns (Brinkworth), the Red Lion (Cricklade) and the Crown (Broad Hinton).This Christmas, Ceri’s cheeses also feature on the menus of several local restaurants. These include the Three Crowns (Brinkworth), the Red Lion (Cricklade) and the Crown (Broad Hinton). 

Mostly, the cheeses form a traditional alternative (or addition) to dessert. However, at the newly opened Weighbridge Brewhouse in Swindon, the North Wiltshire Loaf also features on the main Christmas menu. The Loaf is one of a trio of cheeses in the Double Baker Cheesy soufflé. 

The Weighbridge’s New Year’s Eve menu also includes an All Night Cheese Table, which includes the Loaf and the Seven Pepper soft cheese.

Restaurateur, Anthony Windle, likes to use local produce wherever possible. Local cheeses, like Ceri’s, offer diners the chance to try something a bit unusual. The Loaf, for example, is “fairly fresh for a hard cheese. You can definitely tell the difference,” he explained.

Stilton may still top the cheese sales nationally this Christmas. However, locally, we have a great opportunity to be a bit more adventurous. 

You can find out more on Ceri & her cheeses via the link below.
Shop Better, Shop Local
Shop Better, Shop Local Sarah Hill Wheeler explains how to make the most of local farmers markets this Christmas...
Ceri's Cheese - website
Janet's Puppy School
Cricklade House Hotel
Chelworth Windows and Conservatories, Swindon, Wiltshire