Humorist Dave Barry once wrote that the traditional dishes of England include “Toad in the Hole, Bubble and Squeak, Cock-a-Leekie Soup, Spotted Dick, Bug-in-a-Bucket, Willie One-Polyp, Tonsil-and-Toast, Whack-a-Doodle Johnson, and Fester Pudding.” If you’re familiar with UK food, you already know that only about half of those names are jokingly fabricated, while the other half, despite the distasteful sound, are decidedly real.
The names of British cheeses can also ring strangely in American ears, and there are a lot of them to do the ringing. With over 700 types of cheese being made and sold in the Queen’s land, it can be daunting for a tourist to select one in the first place. With that in mind, here are some of the oddest-sounding British cheeses, and a brief guide to what lies beneath the laughable moniker.
Though it sounds like a gang of lady cheesemakers lost their undergarments, the Welsh cheese gets its name from the farm where it was first made: Pant-Ysgawn. The product is actually a soft, creamy-textured cheese made from goats milk. You can buy it in logs, like traditional goat’s cheese, and frequently with the addition of crushed peppercorns or fresh herbs.
Could it be possible that this cheese was made by pirates? “Yarg! Avast me hearties!” Not unless there are pirates in Cornwall. Made from cow’s milk, Yarg is a semi-hard cheese made distinctive by being wrapped in nettle leaves, resulting in a unique, almost mushroom-like flavor. A popular variety is Wild Garlic Yarg, which swaps the nettles for garlic leaves.
3) Stinking Bishop
While there’s no doubt that Stinking Bishop smells strongly, it doesn’t completely explain the second part of the name. Why “bishop?” Why not name it Fetid Cardinal or Malodorous Pope instead? Molded into large, rinded wheels, the Gloucestershire cheese is said to have an odor resembling dirty socks and wet towels. The cheese increased in sales by 500% when it was used in a popular animated movie to revive a corpse.
4) Hereford Hop
The next popular UK dance craze? No, Hereford Hop gets its name from hops, the very same hops used in the brewing of beer. The cheese, which is made in Gloucestershire rather than Hereford, was revived in 1988 from a historic recipe, and has a rind made of toasted hops. The cheese has a beer-like taste that many people say goes well with –you guessed it– beer.
In America, the word “Philly” in connection with cheese conjures up images of cheescake ingredients. In Wales, they like their Caerphilly even more than we like our cream cheese, so much so that the town of Caerphilly displays a sculpture of the hard, white cow’s milk cheese and holds a three-day festival to celebrate the product every year. The cheese is known outside of Wales for its noticeably salty taste.
If these selections don’t float your dairy boat, how about some Lincolnshire Poacher, a wedge of Fine Fettle, or a big slab of Croglin? Just remember that while British cheeses may have funny names, they’re seriously good. One thing’s for certain: they’re better than a big order of Bug-in-a-Bucket.