If you're thinking about cheese for Halloween (and who isn't?) you will want to go orange. We've all eaten the orange stuff – at least the cheddar – but as we've become concerned with the ingredients in our food, the question "Why is my cheese orange?" has become a bit scary.
But, don't worry, you can feel good tossing a pumpkin-coloured cheese wedge into your child's snack on Oct. 31; orange cheeses are tinted naturally using a dye called annatto, created from the flavourless red-orange pulp that covers the seeds of the achiote tree in South America. Cheese was traditionally tinted to convey quality and consistency since a buttery yellow cheese made from summer milk (when the cows grazed in the fields) could look pale white when made from winter milk. A few cheeses have maintained their traditional colour. So this Halloween, give me the savoury caramel notes of a vivid aged red Leicester – that's my kind of candy. Here are a few colourful options to take you beyond cheddar for the Halloween cheese board:
Red Leicester: Look for the farmstead version as it has much more complexity than the industrial styles. This cheese was originally created as a use for the excess milk left over from making Stilton. The texture is firm, becomes flaky as it ages, and is nutty, tangy and savoury.
Mimolette: A French cheese that originated in Flanders, it is iconic for its round shape. The aged version is a hard cheese that is full flavoured with a long salty and sweet finish.
Double Gloucester: Gloucester cheeses can be traced back to the 4th century. The difference between single and double Gloucester is disputed, some say it is the size of the wheel, while others say the difference is that double Gloucester is made with whole milk versus skimmed milk. Double Gloucester is pale orange, mellow, rich and buttery. Great for kids.
Shropshire blue: For a Halloween treat with a bit more bite, opt for this English blue that is produced in a similar style to Stilton, but only aged eight to 12 weeks (compared with three to four months).
Since it becomes creamier as it ages, this blue's piquancy is fairly tame and won't leave the taste buds cowering.
Sue Riedl blogs about cheese and other edibles at cheeseandtoast.com.