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Northumberland Smoked - the king of smoked cheeses

Are you still sluggishly slaving your way through a mountain of 'Christmas cheese'?

If so, you're not alone. I have a real fear my husband's tolerance of the oozing Le Cados calvados-soaked camembert in the fridge will soon wane to the extent it'll be drop-kicked across the garden, to perish on the compost heap.

In the fridge, it is a bedfellow for a smear of Marc de Champagne-washed Langres, a jar of crumbly Cropwell Bishop Stilton, and a daily diminishing wedge of Northumberland smoked...a cheese I consider (alongside Dapple) to be one of the finer smoked varieties from our isles.

Hailing from the border county (also home to my late paternal grandmother, whose culinary highlight was Yorkshire pudding with jam and cream), it is a superlative territorial fromage, and the eponymous cheese has long had a large section of my cheeseboard set aside for its appearance (usually at Christmas time).

I have a huge problem with many of the smoked cheeses us Brits choose to buy - largely from supermarkets, and including the well-known brand you probably see on a weekly basis.

Depressingly rubbery, and often injected with smoke flavouring, they're not the real deal and should, at best, be used solely as a foil for a burger.

If you want to taste real smoked cheese, hit your local deli up for a piece of Northumberland. The Northumberland Cheese Company was founded by owner Mark in the Rede Valley in 1984 - the year of my birth, and a year that gave us many other classics - Gremlins, Purple Rain, Footloose, The Karate Kid, Indiana Jones.

Having started out predominantly in sheep's milk cheese, the popularity of Mark's product led to an expansion in the mid-90s to the Blagdon Estate, just north of Newcastle, and to the addition of cow and goat's milk cheeses.

A visit to the dairy's top floor tearoom and shop is on my foodie bucket list. For in addition to the likes of cheese quiche, cheese and biscuits, ploughmans, gourmet mac and cheese, and corned beef pie, the menu offers a cheese afternoon tea, bursting with cheese-laden sandwiches, savoury scones and sweet treats. What's not to love?

Here is the place to eat your way through a dairy-lover's dream, in the knowledge that what's on your plate is being made in the 'engine room' beneath your dining table.

Based on a gouda, the original Northumberland cheese is made with hot water added to the curds, imparting extra sweetness, before it's matured for just three months, gaining a silky, buttery texture and mild-mannered flavour.

This is a crowd-pleasing easy melter that collapses seductively over toasted bread, or brings a subtle flavour and beautiful creaminess to a sarnie.

The smoked version, winner of a Silver at the International Cheese Awards, hides a slightly soft, chalky white interior beneath a rind the colour of toasted chestnuts.

Unlike inferior cheeses of this variety, Northumberland is cold smoked over oak chippings for 12 hours before the maturing process begins.

On tasting, the centre is smooth and firm, with a touch of paste, and a lactic, fresh flavour. The closer you veer to the rind, the more you gain those meaty, savoury notes.

Superb alone, wonderful melted into a cheese sauce (we've loved it over smoked haddock), and a luxurious addition to a burger.

You can order this, and the rest of the range (there's a great value selection box of 6 cheeses for £25) at

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