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Pairing Cheese & Jam by Sam Wilkin

Pairing Cheese & Jam

Here at Rosebud Preserves we work really hard to pack as much flavour as possible into every jar of jam. Rewardingly, we’ve noticed a new trend among cheesemongers of pairing our fruit filled jams with their selected cheeses.

While cheese and chutney or cheese and fruit are familiar pairings, cheese and jam is something a little bit different. So, we asked cheesemonger Sam Wilkin to explore the concept of matching cheese and jam and suggest some insightful combinations.

Here are Sam’s recommendations for successful cheese and jam pairings. Turns out he has long had a fondness for combining the two.

As a kid I had a specific dietary quirk, I enjoyed sugary, fruity strawberry jelly jam with supermarket cheddar, all sandwiched between a couple of slices of Hovis. It was considered by some to be a bit weird, but I liked it.

As I’ve grown older (I’ll not say grown up, it wouldn’t be accurate) I have been exposed to that very British habit of adding chutney to your cheeseboard. It’s worth mentioning here that chutney recipes can be traced back to 500BC on the Indian Subcontinent, so like many of our national food obsessions we have somewhere else to thank! Chutney has sugar of course, fruit yes, but vinegar, vegetables and certainly spices are added to the mix. It is a complex and now traditional element on our cheeseboards.

Sometimes, though, what I really want is that sweetness that kicks against the inherently salty nature of cheese. I want the drama, the jeopardy, the contrast of opposites attracting. I want cheese and jam.

Rosebud have an incredible range of jams and marmalades that offer so much more than the strawberry and raspberry jelly jams of my youth. I have done the hard work so you don’t have to and have come up with the perfect jam pairings for some of my favourite cheeses.

Rosebud Apricot and Vanilla Jam with Sinodun Hill

Rachel Norton and Fraser Yarrow left their city life after a chance reading of a Woman & Home magazine article about Goat’s milk Cheesemaking. They moved to Oxfordshire and now, along with their herd of 130 Anglo-Nubian Goats, they make the award-winning raw milk Sinodun Hill.

Sinodun Hill is fresh, acidic, has zesty lemon notes and a structured and delicate earthiness to the rind. The texture is fluffy on first bite and breaks down to coat your mouth with a silky, double cream finish. I have selected the Rosebud Apricot and Vanilla Jam because it has an incredible perfumed roundness of flavour from the vanilla and ripe stone fruit. The gentle aromatic notes round off the acidity and minerality in the cheese without overpowering the gently sweet dairy notes and earthiness. It’s a fantastic cheesecake mouthful that speaks of long Summer evenings with a chilled glass of perfumed Riesling.

Rosebud Three Fruit Marmalade with Baron Bigod

Several years ago now I attended the great gathering of French and European cheesemakers, the Salon du Fromage in Paris. It’s a day (or two) of constant tastings, meeting makers and the occasional glass of Eau de Vie to help wash it all down. Many of the cheeses were incredible but one left its mark for its oddity alone. A Cointreau infused Brie de Meaux, it was both revolting and delicious. My mind struggled to balance the idea with the reality which was that it just worked. I’ve never had it since and probably it should remain as a memory.

I had to include Baron Bigod in this list. Baron is the UKs only raw milk Brie style cheese, it’s one of my favourites and is made by Jonny and Dulcie Crickmore at Fen Farm in the Waveney Valley on the Suffolk/Norfolk border. Because of my peculiar experience in Paris, when looking for a pairing I was drawn inexorably to marmalade.

Rosebud Three Fruit Marmalade is a blend of orange, lemon and grapefruit. It’s tangy, sweet and with that bitterness that gives a good marmalade its structure. The paring works. It works on the flavour level, the salt and sweet, the earthy with the zesty, the bitterness with the creamy.

Cherry and Amaretto Jam with Spenwood

The Basque region in the South of France is home to Ossau Iraty, one of the great cheeses of the world. Ossau Iraty is a springy, hard sheep’s milk cheese, sweet hay notes and a slight gaminess. Traditionally this would be paired with a dark cherry confiture or if in season fresh cherries. It’s a pairing that carries on mainly because it is delicious.

Often when I’m designing pairings I look to history and tradition and this is no different. Rosebud Cherry & Amaretto Jam has that round, ripe, cherry fruitfulness with a nutty almond, amaretto kick – Basically we’re halfway to cherry Bakewell. I had just the cheese to pair. Spenwood by Anne Wigmore is in fact based on a pecorino recipe but shares the sweet pliability of the Ossau Iraty. The ewe’s milk is naturally sweet and redolent of dry hay and meadow flowers. This is a richly perfumed pairing, romantic and ripe.

Rosebud Pear & Brandy Jam with Westcombe Cheddar

Westcombe Dairy is run by the father and son team of Richard and Tom Calver. Richard runs the farm and Tom is the cheese chief. Together they make one of the UK’s best clothbound farmhouse Cheddars, Westcombe. The texture is a million miles from the soft, pastiness of the cheese in that school break sandwich, it is toothsome with a gentle break and the occasional curdy fissure that runs to blue. The flavour is earthy, singing of pasture and the complexity of the Somerset soil.

I have reached into my heritage locker for this one as well, Somerset Cider Brandy is made, unlike its French counterparts, not from wine but from cider. Cider and Cheddar is classic West Country pairing. Many farms would have made both. For me nothing speaks more of the British countryside than Cheddar and cider. The pear is from the same Pomoideae family as the apple and they share many of the same flavours. The pear though is richer, riper, fruitier and, in combination with the gentle kick of the brandy, make an exquisite pairing with Westcombe Cheddar.

Rosebud Blackcurrant Jam with Rollright

Rollright is an oozy beauty, part Reblochon, part Mont D’Or all Gloucestershire goodness. Washed in brine and wrapped in a belt of spruce it has peanut butter, smoky bacon and sweet milk shining through and the texture as mentioned is slick and silky. Rollright is made by David Jowett who has moved from his original setup in Oxfordshire to a new regenerative, rare breeds farm just over the border in a little village called Chedworth.

The pairing needed to be fruity, aromatic and with an acidic kick that cuts through all those rich flavours. In many ways I have drawn from the world of cheese and wine. The classic pairing with Rollright would be a Burgundy, with its light berry fruits and good acidity. I’ve chosen Rosebud Blackcurrant Jam because it is simple and straightforward. Like a good single variety wine it celebrates one fruit, there’s no booze addition, and it doesn’t need it. This is a straightforwardly delicious pairing and I would strongly recommend you rip off a piece of freshly made bread and smear the two across it. It’s joyful.

Rosebud Blackberry and Sloe Gin Jam with Sparkenhoe Blue

We finish the cheeseboard with a blue, a practical choice to end on. I don’t want to overwhelm your taste buds with the spicy, earthiness of blue cheese before you’ve tried that delicate goat Sinudon Hill - you just won’t taste it.

I’ve gone for a blue cheese that is a little unusual. It looks like a Stilton but because it is made from raw milk, it cannot legally be called a Stilton. It has a whiter curd and an almost aquamarine blue marbling. Sparkenhoe Blue is made by Will Clarke whose mother Jo makes the famous Sparkenhoe Red Leicester. Sparkenhoe Blue has a lovely curdy tang which is unusual in blue cheese, it is almost yogurt-y and this is why I have chosen the Blackberry and Sloe Gin Jam to pair.

I remember picking blackberries along the Kentish hedgerows of my youth, fingers red from the juice and the occasional bramble scratch, they would inevitably be incorporated into a crumble and served with yogurt. Sweet, acidic blackberries with the boozy kick of festive sloe gin balanced against the yogurt and earth of the cheese. This really is a pairing from the kind of storybooks I enjoyed as a kid. I can picture Bilbo Baggins taking a puff on his pipe before putting it to one side to enjoy a warm scone piled high with Sparkenhoe Blue and Rosebud Blackberry and Sloe Gin Jam!

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