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The joys of Welsh cheeses, from caerphilly to the new wave of cheddar

From crumbly caerphilly to a new wave of cheddar, Welsh cheese offers up the flavours of the land

Farmhouse cheese has long played an important part in Wales’s food heritage. The best known is arguably caerphilly — a millstone-shaped, pressed cow’s milk cheese named after a Glamorgan town, that traces its origins back to the 1800s, when it was made, using milk from local farms, to feed coal miners.

Caerphilly’s story is bumpy, albeit one with a happy ending. During the Second World War, the Ministry of Food halted its production in favour of cheeses that keep for longer.

After the war, production in Wales resumed in creameries, rather than on farms, although, intriguing­ly, West Country cheddar-makers also started to produce it. However, while the farmhouse caerphilly tradition was initially maintained in Somerset, it was triumphant­ly revived by artisan

Welsh cheesemake­rs in the latter part of the 20th century. And to cap this resurgence, in 2017, traditiona­l Welsh caerphilly was awarded PGI (protected geographic­al indication) status.

Today, the cheese scene in Wales is diverse and creative, home to producers such as Caws Teifi Cheese and Caws Cenarth Cheese, which have both played a part in reviving Wales’s artisan cheese industry. And, given that historic caerphilly-cheddar rivalry, it’s a neat reversal that Wales is nowadays noted for its cheddar production — with Lampeter-based Holden Farm Dairy praised for its Hafod cheese, and the Snowdonia Cheese Company producing the award-winning Black Bomber, a distinctiv­e black wax-coated, extra mature cheddar.

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