"The Shetland" Grilled Cheese Sandwich

by Elizabeth Atia -

This weekend past saw National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day in America (12th of April). North Americans love their grilled cheese sandwiches. I know, I'm an ex-pat Canadian and they were a staple food of my childhood. North Americans love their grilled cheese sandwiches so much that besides having a day dedicated to this culinary delight, they've dedicated the entire month of April to their cheesy toasted greatness!

In keeping with my own North American roots, for National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day I made what I think is the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich with Shetland produce. I combined Monterey Mild Shetland Cheese from Shetland Cheese Company in Skeld with the All Wheat Westside Cob, hand-crafted by artisan baker Robert Tonkinson at the Walls Bakery. His loaves, made with whole wheat flour, cracked wheat and fresh yeast are what bread is supposed to be: dense, nutritious, full of flavour and an absolute pleasure to eat. Shetland Farm Dairies butter provided the fat for optimum toasting.

Shetland Cheese Ltd is the UK's most Northerly producer of cheese. Established in 2009, they are located in a former smokehouse in Skeld, on the west side of Shetland. Husband and wife team, Jay Hawkins and Dilys Evans at Shetland Cheese take great pride in their work; each of their handcrafted batches of cheese are made with local Shetland Farm Dairies milk using traditional methods of production. Each cheese is hand finished and laid to mature from 6 weeks to 12 months to develop its distinctive flavour.

Shetland Cheese produce a wide variety of cheeses, including the award winning Soothe Mooth, a salty, slightly crumbly cheese, St. Ninians soft cheese, Zetland Cheddar, Monterey Mild (a traditional Monterey Jack cheese), its smoked counterpart Reeky Jack and a variety of flavoured cheeses. The herbs and spices used to flavour their cheeses such as caraway, cumin (my favourite) and chilli are added directly to the fresh curds as they come out the the vat - maturing within 6 kg rounds over a minimum of 6 weeks, providing for a more vibrant and natural taste.

Jay and Dilys at Shetland Cheese welcome visitors to their cafe and creamery, and they offer tours. Much to my delight, they also offer group cheesemaking days for parties of up to eight people! I had the pleasure of attending one of these events yesterday, and I thoroughly enjoyed every single moment of it. It's a very hand's on day, with the whole group being talked through the details and science behind every step of the cheesemaking process.

We chose to make Sandstinger, a coloured hard cheese traditionally made and matured in cloth to give a tangy, yet creamy finish. This cheese is named after Sandsting parish, where the creamery is located. While we were waiting for bacterial culture to act in the Shetland Dairies milk we had the opportunity to lard and bandage some Sandstinger cheese which had come out of the moulds the morning we arrived. This was a messy but very enjoyable task.

Shetland Cheese offer gift vouchers for these group cheesemaking days, or you could hire them for an exclusive group event. Most of the party I was with had been given vouchers for either Christmas or Valentines Day. This sort of gift would be ideal for any foodies in the family, or even as a day event if you are coming up to Shetland on holiday. Jay matures the cheeses for 6-8 weeks and then delivers them to each person on the course, so you end up with a 750-800 gram muckle truckle you've helped to make!

Back to the grilled cheese: Americans like to name their grilled cheese sandwich concoctions, so this one shall hereby be known as "The Shetland" and it was , in all honesty, the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever eaten!

You can buy the all wheat Westside Cob in the Walls Bakery on the west side of Shetland, or in Scoop Wholefoods in Lerwick. Shetland Cheese and Shetland Dairies butter can be purchased in most village shops around the islands, including Scoop Wholefoods.

"The Shetland" Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Course: Main

Servings: 4

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 4 minutes

  • All wheat westside cob - 1 450 gram
  • Monterey mild Shetland cheese - 225 grams
  • Shetland Dairies butter -
  1. Slice bread into 1 cm thick slices and generously butter one side of each slice.
  2. Grate the Monterey Mild Shetland cheese (use the larger side of the cheese grater).
  3. If you have a grill, assemble the sandwich with the buttered sides of the bread on the outside. Pile up that cheese, don't be stingy! Grill for 4 minutes until the bread is browned and toasted and the cheese has melted.
  4. If you don't have a grill, heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Place one slice of bread, buttered side down, on the hot pan, load with the grated cheese and top with the other slice of bread, buttered side up. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has melted.
  5. Serve immediately with a nice tomato and basil soup.
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