I no longer carry “normal cheese” in my refrigerator. This is not a problem for me-but my poor children do like to make a sandwich for school in the morning. They are constantly befuddled by the odds and ends and scraps in the cheese drawer-none of which really resemble cheese as far as they are concerned. Poor dears, I’m such a Bad Mommy! An exception to this is today’s cheese, the absolutely benign and orange cheddar appearing Double Gloucester. As a result of its appearance, I have had to shoo the children away from it for days. At last, I am reviewing a cheese which for all intents and purposes looks exactly like that little wedge of orange stuff you buy at Safeway. Except it isn’t.
Double Gloucester has been around for at least 600 years in England, and was originally a sheep’s milk cheese. The sheep were eventually edged out by cows-by Tudor times cows milk was the norm and mainly came from Old Gloucester cows (hence the name.) In 1745 a cattle plague almost wiped out all Gloucester cows (which should remind us all of the importance of genetic diversity) so now Gloucester still has the name, but is made with whatever milk is available. It’s made all over England, industrially and on the farm. My slice claims to be pasteurized, but all sources on the net say it’s made from raw milk. I’m a little confused. Luckily, I am not a little pregnant, so who cares.
Double Gloucester also comes in a single Gloucester form-which seems to be less popular and made of skimmed milk. The double is fattier and made in a larger cheese form. This is an orange cheese, traditionally dyed with annatto. After the whey is stacked and drained it is milled, salted and put into molds where it is aged for about 6 months. There are two popular variations: Cotswold Cheese is made by blending chives and onions into Double Gloucester, and Huntsman cheese, AKA Stilchester, is made with alternating layers of Double Gloucester and Stilton. Mmm. Gotta get me some of that!
As it matures, Double Gloucester becomes very hard. In the olden days buyers of the cheese jumped up and down on it to assess its grade-if the rind didn’t crack it was good to go. This is, perhaps the reason why people are compelled to roll this cheese down hills! Yes, this is it-the cheese that rolls! Cooper’s Hill Cheese-rolling and Wake is an annual event, now considered a “dangerous sport” and one that adds a delicious element to our cheese’s story.
Every year at Cooper’s Hill a round of Double Gloucester is rolled from the top of the hill. Competitors race after it-the first person over the finish line wins the cheese. The cheese reaches speeds of up to 70 mph! This cheese rolling competition was traditionally by and for the locals from the village of Brockworth, but due to its total coolness the rest of the world now takes part in this strange ritual. Cheese rolling here is at least 200 years old. During WW2 rationing was introduced which prevented the use of a cheese. Thus, from 1941 to 1954 a replica wooden “cheese” was used instead. This event has gotten totally out of hand over the last couple of years due to overcrowding. Sprains, breaks and concussions are common and a volunteer rescue group waits at the bottom of the hill for casualties.
Alas, the popularity may be the end of the event. The last official event was cancelled after attempts to manage it resulted in death threats towards the event committee! The roll happened spontaneously with no organization, just like in the olden days-but who knows what the future will be for Coopers hill. In 2010, an iphone application called “Coopers Hill” was released, so you can get your Double Gloucester cheese rolling needs met whenever you like these days, injury free.
My little wedge of Double Gloucester doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. It looks exactly like an orange cheddar square. It’s firm and has a slightly mouldy looking rind-which I am assured is normal and to be expected. The smell is very mild. If fact, does it smell?
Hmmmm. It looks firm, but it’s not. It crumbles the second you bite it. The taste is pretty mild- it’s salty and savoury and a little sharp with no hint of ammonia, mould-or sweet, for that matter. It’s kind of like a young cheddar-lacking that astringent bite. There’s absolutely nothing memorable about this cheese taste for me, it’s a serviceable, kind of boring cheese. There’s nothing offensive, but that’s just it-there’s really nothing at all. How disappointing!
Oh well, Double Gloucester, you still rock. No other cheese has it’s own iphone app, so really, who cares how you taste: you win.