We sent Emma a package of honey goodness to experiment with and to find some wonderful pairings. Here's what she found out..
Now, let me start with this - honey is not always the obvious choice as a condiment to go with cheese for many reasons. Chutneys and jams have big, bold flavours. Think about a classroom or even work environment – the loudest person gets the most attention. The quieter one sitting in the background is often the one with the best ideas or in this food pairing instance, the one which pairs best. I am not saying ditch chutney – there is a reason it is so popular and that is because it works, and it works well.
Honey however is next level.
The delicate nuances, the floral notes and surprisingly, the acidity make for some wonderful combinations. I don’t like the word ‘accompaniment’. I think it downplays said products, but when I am finding pairings, the point is to find equal matches or ‘accompaniments’ which partner and bring a new element and a combination and not just having one on the side masked by the other.
I tasted these honeys with a selection of cheeses from Mons Cheesemongers.
First up is St. Jude, a British cow’s milk cheese made by Julie Cheyney in Suffolk and Petit Blaja, a French goat’s milk cheese from the Midi-Pyrénées. The St Jude had a fresh acidity, whipped, mousse-y texture and a very delicate breakdown beneath the rind. The milk quality shone through. The Petit Blaja is another lactic recipe but with some different stages of production. The curds are drained considerably through several processes to create a drier curd. This cheese is so incredibly more-ish. Being a raw milk cheese (as is St Jude) it changes flavour profile constantly and this batch had a quite dominant lemon acidity to it as well as earthy, yeasty flavours and a bit of mushroom on the rind. When tasting these with the honey it is was so interesting to see such varied outcomes. The St Jude worked very nicely with the Kent Honey. Which I was pleased with as I am from Kent! To me, the non-expert in honey, it was very floral and gentle but still with a good length. The acidity of the honey and the floral notes were a perfect match with the rich milk of the St Jude.
With the Petit Blaja I enjoyed the Isle of Purbeck honey. The bolder flavours in the cheese called for a stronger flavour in the honey which this provided. There was still floral nuances and it was more perfumed than the Kent honey but the overall structure of flavours in the Isle of Purbeck honey was the better match. I really enjoyed the Shropshire Honey I can see it working well with a blue cheese or an Alpine Cheese such as 1924 and Comté.
I had some Ling Heather honey in my cupboard from before. I’m not quite sure how I hadn’t eaten it all just with a spoon but it was still there. The honey is strong and aromatic which helps it pair with richer cheeses. I haven’t tried this pairing, but in my head I can see it working very well with Munster from Alsace. The one sold by Mons Cheesemongers is bacon-y, boozy, full on and slightly sweet from the corn silage feed. I can see these traits being a perfect match for washed rinds such as this Munster, or the British St James. The warmth of stronger honeys to me go perfectly with the bolder flavours of washed rinds and British territorial cheeses.
My very very basic guide for pairing honey with cheese is as follows. All pairing experiences are personal, however this is a good starting point.
- Lighter styles such as the Borage Honey – Fresh curd, ricotta, young goat’s cheese, fresh lactic cheeses
- Medium styles like the Isle of Purbeck honey – Tommes and semi hard cheese, stronger goat’s milk cheese, Cheddar, some British crumblies such as Lancashire and Alpine Cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano and some blues also.
- Stronger styles like the Ling Heather Honey - Washed rind cheese, blue cheese and again some Cheddar and British crumblies such.
As I said above – all pairings are personal and I look forward to continuing my honey and cheese pairing journey. You never know what surprises you may find along the way.
You can follow Emma's journey on instagram @thecheeseexplorer.