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Judging the International Cheese Awards 2018

Being a judge at the International Cheese Awards is my dream job and once again this year I got to live my dream for one day in Nantwich, Cheshire.

The International Cheese Awards is the largest dairy industry event in the UK. This year’s awards saw 300 judges and 158 stewards descend upon the cheese pavilion to judge 5183 different cheese and dairy products across hundreds of categories. That itself is a massive organisational feat, but throw in a lunch for 1350 and you can see why the International Cheese Awards is considered to be the best dairy event in the world.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2018

The International Cheese Awards draws judges from near and far. In my judging team were Lavinia Newell, a retired cheese-maker from the UK and Sue Arthur, director at Over the Moon Dairy Co and New Zealand Cheese School. Both Lavinia and Sue were incredibly knowledgeable and took their time to explain what characteristics we were looking for in the cheeses we were judging.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2018

Together we judged two categories – DP2 “Farmhouse / Traditional Cheshire
Cheese – White. Any weight” and DP151 “Soft, Semi-soft or Cream Cheese without Additives – other than Blue Veined Cheese – With Rind. Open to non UK producers”.

The traditional Cheshire cheese category has just 9 cheeses to judge, which was a fairly straight forward task. Lavinia explained that we were looking for a white, crumbly texture. This mellow cheese should break down between your fingers like butter and it should have a slightly nutty flavour. Ultimately we chose the Wensleydale Creamery entry as our winner. Each winning cheese is then put forward to be judged against all the other category winners to find the supreme champion.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2018

Our second category, the soft, semi soft or cream cheese category had 39 entries which was much harder to judge. There were so many different styles of cheese; from brie to Camembert, burrata to goats cheese and almost everything in between. The winner was an absolutely divine Italian burrata from Masseria Posticchia Sabelli. I suspect it will be hard to find in the UK, but it was an absolute joy to eat.

And just like that, my judging shift was over for another year. All of the winners had been taken away to be judged again with the supreme champion being announced after lunch.

The lunch at the International Cheese Awards is legendary. Lunch saw 1350 enjoying a champagne reception; followed by a lunch of cold meats and hearty salads, delicious puddings made by Mrs Harvey. I’m not sure who this pudding goddess is, but I’d like to get to know her better. Somewhere between the puddings and the epic cheeseboard, the winners were announced.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2018

The winner and Supreme Champion was Belton Cheese for their Cheshire, a well deserved win! You can find all the winners here on the International Cheese Awards website.

The International Cheese Awards runs alongside the Nantwich Agricultural Show in Cheshire. You can visit the International Cheese Awards and the cheese pavilion on 25th July 2018, but it’ll be back again next year if you’ve missed out!

If reading this has given you a sudden craving for cheese, you might enjoy these mini cheese and pickled walnut quiches.

 

Preview: International Cheese Awards 2018

If you love cheese as much as I do, then the idea of spending some time exploring and sampling some of the best cheeses from around the world would be your idea of heaven. I’m pleased to say that once again this year I’ll be a judge at the International Cheese Awards. But what else going on in the cheese marquee this year?

The International Cheese Awards is part of the Nantwich Show which takes place on Wednesday 25th July this year. The Nantwich Show is a huge agricultural show and a brilliant day out for families. Early bird tickets are available – adults £15, children’s £5, or just £35 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children). Although tickets will also be available at full price on the gate on the day.

ICA2016 Win tickets to the International Cheese Awards and the Nantwich Show

The price of your ticket not only gets you entry to the biggest cheese show in the world, but also to the Nantwich Show, the top one-day agricultural show in the UK. The Nantwich Show has over 450 trade stands, a Shopping and Craft Marquee, livestock displays, countryside pursuits and vintage cars, tractors and machinery. See, I told you it was a great family day out!

If the Nantwich Show and the International Cheese Awards isn’t enough to tempt you; celebrity chef James Martin will be cooking in the demo kitchen. He’ll be doing cookery demonstrations at 11am and 3pm, with tickets priced at £5. These tickets always sell out fast, so don’t leave it too long to book your place!

International Cheese Awards

Picture credit: International Cheese Awards

Other chefs in the demo kitchen this year include Will Holland and Jonathan Harrison; as well as artisan cheesemaker Sean Wilson. These shows are free of charge, but are first come, first served; so make sure you get there early to secure your seat.

Last year’s International Cheese Awards was the biggest yet, with 5685 entries across hundreds of different categories. The cheese marquee is huge, filled with exhibitors from all over the world. It’s a great opportunity to try some new cheeses, plus some of the exhibitors have special offers on, so you can go home laden with enough cheese to keep you going for the summer (that’s what I do).

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

Win tickets to the International Cheese Awards and the Nantwich Show

To be in with a chance to win a family ticket to the International Cheese Awards and the Nantwich Show for two adults and two children, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent a family ticket to the International Cheese Awards and the Nantwich Show for two adults and two children.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 8th July 2018.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide an email address and a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto International Cheese Awards to post the above mentioned prize out to the winner.
11. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
12. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Judging the International Cheese Awards – ICA2016

Last year I was honoured to be asked to be a judge at the International Cheese Awards and I was delighted when I was asked back this year for more of the same. Except it’s never the same, because there are literally hundreds of categories and literally thousands of cheeses. 5000 cheeses this year in fact – making the International Cheese Awards at Nantwich the biggest and best cheese show in the world!

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The day began like no other, in the car at 7am speeding towards Nantwich. Arriving at the show ground in good time, I registered as a judge and readied myself for the judges briefing. Once I’d donned my official white coat I joined my fellow judges, Victor Hyman from the Barbakan Deli in Chorlton and Laura Barnes from Dewlay Traditional Cheese Makers in Lancashire. I was in excellent and very knowledgeable company.

We had four categories to judge at ICA2016 –
  • DP76 – Two Halves Standard Blue Stilton. Open to producers who are producing less than 1,000 tonnes annually.
  • DP77 – Two Halves Mature Blue Stilton. Open to producers who are producing less than 1,000 tonnes annually.
  • DP90 – Cheese – Any variety that contains Savoury Additives. Hard Cheese other than Cheddar. Cheese produced in UK only.
  • DP97 – Cheese – Any variety that contains Sweet Additives. Soft Cheese produced outside UK only.

We were efficient in our judging. Tasting and discussing the merits of each of the cheeses, examining their appearance, smell, texture and taste, weighing up the sometimes tiny differences between them. Loving some, liking most, disliking the minority. 

The great thing about judging is having to try new things you might not normally choose to put on your cheese board. It expands your horizons and makes you appreciate a cheese even if that cheese might not be to your normal tastes.

ICA2016

I’m not generally a blue cheese fan, but trying the Stilton and learning more about what to look for and what makes a great Stilton has made me appreciate it a little more, so much so that I added a generous portion to my cheese plate at lunchtime.

Judging the four categories took us around two and a half hours. It’s surprisingly hard work and afterwards I had to sit down with a cuppa to recover myself. By the time I was rejuvenated lunchtime was upon us and it was time for a feast, followed by probably the worlds best cheese board.

At lunch La Guilde Internationale des Fromagers took their chance to induct some new members into their ranks, including Chef James Martin. I managed to film that bit, you can view the clips below on YouTube.

And this one…

After lunch the winners were announced and the Supreme Champion and winner of the Westminster Cup 2016 was Treur Kaas for their aged Jerseyhoeve Schorren. Reserve Supreme Champion and Reserve Champion Overseas was awarded to Elite Imports, whilst Champion UK went to Arla Foods with a Double Gloucester from Taw Valley Creamery.

ICA2016 was an absolutely fantastic day, exhausting yes. Will I want to eat cheese tomorrow? Maybe not, but probably by the day after. It’s a truly unique event and a truly unique experience. I’m proud to be a little part of that.

The International Cheese Awards is a two day event, day one was trade and judging day, day two (27th July 2016) the cheese pavilion doors are thrown open to the public and you can sample some of the 5000 wonderful cheeses there from all over the world. 

ICA2016

You can find out more about the International Cheese Awards 2016 on their website, and you can find out more information  and buy tickets to the Nantwich Show here.

Preview: The International Cheese Awards 2016

This year will be my third visit to the International Cheese Awards at the Nantwich Show. It goes without saying that this fantastic event is the highlight of my foodie year. Last year I had the privilege of being asked to be a judge and I must have done something right, as I’ve been asked to judge again this year.

Judging takes place on trade day, which this year is on 26th July, and the massive International Cheese Awards marquee is thrown open to the public on 27th July.

This year is the 119th International Cheese Awards, which are held as part of the Nantwich Show in Cheshire. This year there have been a record breaking 4956 entries across literally hundreds of different categories of cheese, with entries from small artisan producers, to huge dairies and supermarkets.  Last years Supreme Champion  was the Greenfields Dairy Crumbly Lancashire Cheese, and I can personally vouch for this beautiful cheese, it’s a regular in our shopping basket!

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On show day (27th July) the demo kitchen is in full swing, with a host of familiar faces returning to this year’s show – including James Martin, Sean Wilson and Will Holland. Book your tickets for the demos in advance (£5 on  the Nantwich Show website) – they always sell out so quickly! Plus there’s a whole marquee of cheese to sample and explore.

As well as hosting the The International Cheese Awards 2016, the Nantwich Show is a brilliant day out for all the family, there’s so much to see and do, the Nantwich Show is apparently the biggest agricultural show in the UK, with everything from cows, sheep, pigs and pigeons to horticulture and honey. Check out the vintage cars and agricultural machinery as well as the latest in tractor technology! I know my boy would love it there!

Tickets are available on the gate priced at £18 for adults, £7 for children, £13 for senior citizens and family tickets for £45. However, if you book via the Nantwich Show website in advance, you can get discounted tickets (£15/£5/£10/£35). Your ticket covers admission to both the biggest cheese awards in the world and the largest one-day agricultural show in the UK, making it even more of a bargain!

The International Cheese Awards 2016

I can’t wait to get my judges coat on again and get sampling some of the finest cheeses from across the world. If you like cheese and want to learn a little more about the industry, I really can’t recommend the International Cheese Awards 2016 enough. It’s a HUGE marquee of cheese, and an experience every cheese lover should experience at least once in their lifetime.

You can find out more about the International Cheese Awards 2016 on their website, and you can find out more information  and buy tickets to the Nantwich Show here.

Preview: International Cheese Awards 2015

It hardly seems like a year since I returned home from the International Cheese Awards, a bag of cheese slung over my shoulder and the inspiration for a thousand cheese boards filling my head. Since my invitation to this years International Cheese Awards arrived, I have been eagerly watching the construction of the massive (massive is an understatement really, it’s 83,000 sq ft) marquee on Twitter and sneaking a peak at some of the entries.

This year is the 118th International Cheese Awards, which are held as part of the Nantwich Show in Cheshire on 28th (judging and trade day) and 29th July 2015 (show day). This year there have been a record breaking 4,611 entries across literally hundreds of different categories of cheese, with entries from small artisan producers, to huge dairies and supermarkets. Last years Supreme Champion  was the Nottingham based Colston Bassett Dairy with their Whole Blue Stilton, and rather delicious it was too.

I’ll be there on trade day, but the 29th July sees the International Cheese Awards marquee open to the public as part of the Nantwich Show. You can take a tour of the trade stands, try a few cheeses and book in and watch a cookery demonstration by a celebrity chef – James Martin, Will Holland, Jonathon Harrison and Sean Wilson will all be there, and last year I bumped into Aldo Zilli too!

The Nantwich Show is a brilliant day out for all the family, there’s so much to see and do, the Nantwich Show is apparently the biggest agricultural show in the UK, with everything from cows, sheep, pigs and pigeons to horticulture and honey. Take a look at the vintage cars and agricultural machinery as well as the latest in tractor technology! I know my boy would love it there!

The morning of the judging day is a hectic whirlwind of activity, with the marquee packed full of huge wheels of cheese, it is a sight to behold and enough to keep several large villages in cheese for a lifetime. The white-coated judges patrolling the tables, deliberating over their category and choosing the very best cheese. It’s an opportunity for non judges like me to take a turn around the trade stands and explore new cheeses and other dairy products (though chocolate cheese has yet to find a place in my heart).

The afternoon of judging day will this year see 1,144 people sitting down to a delicious four course meal, followed by the announcement of the winners and of course the supreme champion. The International Cheese Awards is the largest dairy hospitality event in the UK and the highlight of my foodie calendar!

You can find out more about the International Cheese Awards on their website, and you can find out more information  and buy tickets to the Nantwich Show here.

International Cheese Awards

Cheese & more cheese at the Nantwich Show

Yesterday I had a cracking day out at the International Cheese Awards which runs alongside the Nantwich Show in Cheshire. I spent the whole day there, and in my excitement I blogged the story so far from inside the press tent before the winners had even been announced. Today I’m sharing some of my highlights from the day, as well as the winners.

There were 4,443 award entries, which meant that the cheese pavilion was literally packed full of cheese. There was something for everyone, whatever kind of cheese you liked it was there. It was also a great opportunity to try new cheeses that you might not have encountered before.

International Cheese Awards

There were cheeses from 26 countries; goats cheese; sheeps cheese; cheese aimed at kids; cheese for cheese likers and cheese for cheese lovers, as well as some cheese and more cheese. It was a great opportunity to meet local producers and learn a little more about what they do. I’m a keen supporter of local food, low food miles and all that, and it’s great to support a huge industry like the diary industry which as well as some big names, it is full of small artisan producers creating cheesy masterpieces.

Lunch, which was the most incredible sight I’ve seen in a while, saw 1,100 people sit down to a delicious meal, which did include plenty of cheese. It was the largest dairy hospitality event in the UK. We were very privileged to see some excellent cheesemakers inducted into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers.

International Cheese Awards

Induction into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers

It was shortly after lunch that the winners were announced. The Supreme Champion Cheese of 2014 was the Whole Blue Stilton from Colston Bassett. The best retailer was Waitrose, with Morrisons coming a close second. All the winners are on the International Cheese Awards website.

During the walk around it was nice to see some familiar faces from TV. On the day I spied chef Aldo Zilli, Sean Wilson and Charles Campion.

International Cheese Awards

Chef Aldo Zilli

Although I wasn’t able to get to the show day today to meet James Martin, a chum kindly offered to ask him a few questions on my behalf (thanks Liz).

I wanted to know how to interest children in trying more interesting, adventurous cheeses. James suggested that mozzarella is a great cheese to start off with, then maybe move on to more interesting cheeses such as Lincolnshire Poacher and Ogleshield, both have a softer texture but are tasty and ideal for small children.

I’m trying to cook more with my pre-school aged son, so I wanted to know a tasty, easy cheese recipe to make with him which wasn’t the standard mac and cheese. James suggested a pan bagna, an easy layered sandwich made inside a crusty loaf, which is packed with attractive colours, is really easy to make, great for picnics and it’s delicious.

International Cheese Awards

James Martin     –      Celebrity Chef Credit: International Cheese Awards

And yes, he is apparently even more handsome in real life.

It was a real privilege to be invited to the trade day at the International Cheese Awards, next year I hope to go to show day too. It’s a really interesting day out (especially if you go to the Nantwich Show as well) and you never know, you might discover something extra exciting to put on your cheese board.