I have good news today. See, some of you know I’ve been having some troubles with my joints; typing, while still slow and has to be done just a little at a time is easier and I’m trying to use the voice options on my computer. And cooking has been challenging, but I’m really trying to focus on fun & easy (and lightweight) food. And the best news? I made Old English Potted Cheese and it’s a super easy cheese spread and just to die for.
I have been wanting to make Old English Potted Cheese since I came across it on The Guardian. Potted Cheese is a cheese spread and it’s actually a bit like a recipe I have on my site already, Fromage Fort (translates as “Strong Cheese”) but I’m always intrigued by anything with the word “potted” (a spread) or “potage” (thick soup) or even “potager” (it’s a garden). Potted or Potage or Potager just sounds better, don’t they? I think of quaint thatched cottages with their wild tangles of flowers, and then my mind drifts to scones, clotted cream, and brambleberry jam. Not that I’ve ever had brambleberry jam but I know I’d love it.
About Old English Potted Cheese:
I do have a recipe for Potage – Cream of Spring Vegetable Soup, but I digress and Spring is many long months away. Months and months and months away. And here it is February, and I’m backing off on those daydreams of gentle breezes and wisps of clouds in blue skies, the air filled with the scent of flowers, the birds and the busy bees because I am thinking this Old English Potted Cheese is going to be perfect for Valentine’s Day.
What we have here with this Old English Potted Cheese is a pretty amazing Cheese Spread that’s packed with flavor for days. It’s going to be great spread on crusty bread, crostini, crackers or just about anything you want to spread it on. It can be served as is or toasted till melty and crusty in the oven.
There are a lot of variations of Old English Potted Cheese; I chose the traditional recipe (from Jane Grigson, a renowned English cookbook author and also consulted one of my fave blogs, British Food in America, so this isn’t exactly an original idea. If you’re a food nerd, British Food in America is a fun read with lots of hints and variations and recommendations. It’s a lot of info for a bit of cheese whirred up in the food processor! People are passionate about Potted Cheese for good reason, beyond that it’s been traced back to the 18th century! It’s just so freakin’ fantastic!
Making Old English Potted Cheese:
So I already gave away the secret to making Old English Potted Cheese. Whir it in a food processor. Grate the cheese and then pulse into the smallest bits before you add the butter and the rest of the ingredients. Make sure the butter is at the right temperature. If your cat has been camped out on your kitchen floor register (because it got down to 36 below last week and she’s figured out how to stay warm) and you walk in to find your kitchen is frigid, pop your butter in the microwave for just seconds. The butter should bend but still hold its shape so it blends well, and not be too warm, either, or it might seem a bit oily in the final product.
Today, I went absolutely classic; the only change I made was to use a Vermont white Cheddar and a little allspice instead of the mace; I don’t usually cook with mace so I don’t have it on hand, so I’m betting most people don’t. I’d def include the allspice, though – it’s like a little magical touch.
There are so many ways to vary the recipe. Different cheeses (and potted cheese is often made with bits of this and that), different alcohols, and while some are suggested in the recipe, you could add just about anything you’d like. Wines, whiskey, bourbon, even beer as long as it will complement the cheese. Think about add-ins, like roasted garlic, caramelized onions or shallots. I even thought a smidge of horseradish or maybe a splash of hot sauce would be great in this and an herb or two can set it off. Maybe thyme, marjoram (there’s a touch of marjoram sprinkled on the cheese in my pics) or rosemary if you’re into it. Really, it’s hard to go wrong. And it has to be said because I’m an American: why not some bacon?!
Saving Money on Old English Potted Cheese:
You’re probably going to want a good cheese for this recipe, and there are several kinds of English cheese listed in the recipe if that’s in your budget. I kind of splurged on a Vermont Cheddar and the flavor of the spread is incredible. It wasn’t cheap but it was worth every penny. It also came out to be a lot less than any old grocery store prepackaged carton of Kaukauna (and made more) or a purchased cheeseball. I’m justifying, I know. And when Kraig (my son) was by, raiding the fridge, I gave him a dire warning not to touch that cheese! He’d eat cheese by the block when he was a kid and still will!
I picked my cheese up at Costco, and my final price for the cup and a half or so of my Old English Potted Cheese was around $5.50 so it’s not like this is an outrageous price for an appetizer. If the price is not an object go as fancy as you’d like and just so ya know, even a grocery store Cheddar (shop well, buy it on sale; it’s always on special so stock up) will be fantastic once it has a bit of Sherry or other alcohol of choice and the spices dumped in. If you want your Potted cheese to go further at a party, spread it on crostini or toast or crackers on trays ahead rather than putting it out for everyone to help themselves.
Just like Fromage Fort, Old English Potted Cheese can be made with bits and pieced of whatever you have hanging out in the fridge. Hard cheese, soft cheese (you may need a bit less butter if you use mostly soft) or anything in between is gonna be great. We Americans tend to like a little cream cheese in our spreads – that is one “cheese” that’s going to dull the flavors so resist the impulse. As Jane Grigson said (quoted in British Food in America) “I make the most outrageous mixtures, cutting them up (bits of cheese) and reducing them to crumbs…then adding the butter, some Amontillado sherry and plenty of coarsely ground black pepper.” and to paraphrase this produces “a far more rewarding “result than any cook deserves. The thing is to keep tasting, then add alcohol and seasonings accordingly.”
Old English Potted Cheese
- 8 to 9 ounces grated cheese, (a mixture of hard cheeses such as cheddar, Double Gloucester, Cheshire, and Lancashire are recommended) (250 grams)
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, at room temperature (90 grams)
- 2 tablespoon sherry (or Madeira or port)
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder (Coleman’s works great)
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace (substitute allspice)
- a splash of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped (reserve some as halves for decoration) (60grams)
- melted clarified butter (optional)
Cheese should be finely grated; if not, add to food processor and pulse well. Add the butter and process well into a paste. Add alcohol of choice and the mustard powder, cayenne, and ground mace, along with the splash of Worcestershire, if using. Pulse to combine, scrape down and continue to process until smooth and well combined. If possible, refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating, to allow the flavors to combine.
Bring to room temperature before serving or it may be hard and crumbly. Delicious served spread on toasts or broiled on toast or with a good biscuit such as a Digestive or an oatcake.
- Add the walnuts to cheese, place in a ramekin and top with walnut halves.
- Form the cheese into small cakes and roll in walnuts, topping each small cake with a walnut half.
- To preserve and keep potted cheese longer, dispense with walnuts, place in ramekins and cover with a layer of clarified butter. (Keeps for several weeks just fine as is, especially if made and kept “clean.”)
Recipe from Jane Grigson via the Guardian