The beauty of cruising is the variety of experiences you can indulge in, all in one sailing – and not only that, but the different flavours you can taste too! And let’s face it – a big contender in the foodie world has to be cheese. From the subtle flavours of classic Cheddar to the rich and creamy Camembert, we explore the best cheeses you’ll find in pretty ports across Europe…
We start our cheese adventure close to home in the wonderful Dutch city of Amsterdam. Famous of course for its canals, city cycling and fields of tulips, the capital of the Netherlands is also home to one of the world’s most popular cheeses – Edam!
This nutty cheese originated in the small town of Edam, which sits on the bank of the Markermeer, north of Amsterdam, and has produced a brand of cheese that’s beloved by food fans from around the world.
Until 1922, the town hosted a market where farmers from miles around sold their wares at a cheese market. Every Wednesday in July and August, this market is recreated complete with cheese carriers, inspectors, farmers and traders. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the past, complete with traditional costumes and music.
Edam is only a 20-minute trip from Amsterdam, so for those heading into the capital, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the city centre before branching out to this tiny town with a big name.
A personal favourite, Camembert originated in Normandy, France. Fresh Camembert cheese has a rich, buttery flavour, and is hard and crumbly in texture. Young Camembert however, has a milky, sweet taste. As it matures it forms a smooth, runny interior and a white bloomy rind, which is meant to be eaten with the cheese.
Camembert was born in the town of its given name, when a French farmer, Marie Harel, perfected her recipe. The reputation of this cheese grew quickly, with many other countries following suit and aiming to produce their own ‘Cambembert’. Eventually, the Norman notables established the ‘Genuine Camembert of Normandy Makers Syndicate’ into effect, which defined precisely how the popular cheese should be made.
Many cruise lines travel to Le Harve out of Southampton and other UK ports, so there’s a good chance you’ll be visiting the region on a cruise soon! Or how about heading on a river cruise down the Seine? You’ll cruise right through the heart of Normandy on the way to Paris – meaning Camembert all around! And of course, this cheese is best partnered with wine. Pair it with a nice light red such as Beaujolais, Chenin Blanc, St Emilion, St Estephe or more traditionally, a glass of Normandy cider!
Over last decade, the demand in the UK for this specific cheese has surpassed every other European country except Cyprus – in other words, us Brits love the stuff! This Cypriot gem is similar to mozzarella in that it’s stored in its natural juices with salt water, but this cheese is most often seen after being fried or grilled.
Originating in Cyprus over 1500 years ago, this cheese is also a huge hit in the middle-east as well as Europe, being hugely loved in Levant countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, and is now a traditional component of the Levenatine breakfast – eaten with hummus, falafel and khubz.
Locating halloumi around this region of the Mediterranean will not be difficult – many of the Greek islands such as Santorini, Mykonos and Kos will have it on every menu! But if you’re looking for the best halloumi around, you have to be in its one true home – Cyprus. The port of Limassol is central to the island, meaning shore excursions to Paphos and Ayia Napa are all feasible in a day. Whether you head to this lovely little island or explore glorious Greece instead, you’ll be tucking in to this grilled goodness in no time!
One closer to home, this region of Britain is cheese mad – Cheddar Village in Somerset. The most bought and popular cheese in the UK originates from this small parish in the West Country.
Mild cheddar is typically sold at about three months of age, medium-matured cheddar at five to six months, mature cheddar at around nine months, extra mature at around 15 months and vintage at 18 months or more. Whether you enjoy the creamy taste of mild Cheddar or the complex, lasting, slightly nutty flavours of more mature cheddar, this tasty cheese has become a staple up and down the country.
Cheddar making in Somerset goes back more than 800 years, with King Henry II declaring Cheddar cheese to be the best in Britain, with his son Prince John (who reigned between 1199 and 1216) also favouring it, savouring the cheese for the great Royal banquets.
With just about every cruise line sailing straight out of Southampton, why not extend your holiday by a day or two with a pit-stop in the serenity of Somerset either before or after your cruise? It’s easy to forget that there’s some brilliant adventures to be had right on your doorstep! Enjoy a good ole’ bit of cheddar topped with some chutney and a cracker – this shire county has a stunning coastline and is among the UK’s top places for birdwatching, too.
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