One of the wonderful things about knives is that there seems to be one for just about any job you might do in a kitchen from shucking an oyster to slicing a wafer thin piece of sashimi, with about a hundred tasks in between.
But a question that we get asked quite often is ‘why do cheese knives have holes in them?’ And a supplementary question is ‘why do some cheese knives turn up at the end?’
The answers to both are both simple and complicated. Knives, like everything else that is traditional to human culture, evolved for centuries on a regional basis until the globe opened up, and people were able to export their ideas to other countries.
No one quite knows where the ‘hole in the knife’ idea was first developed, but we do know that it was for two connected reasons. The first was to keep the surface area of the knife in contact with the cheese as small as possible, so that, secondly, it becomes a non-stick agent when dealing with a soft, sticky cheese like Brie or Camembert. (Some people achieve the same effect by dipping a simple kitchen knife into hot water, but it doesn’t seem quite as much fun). It also helps that you can use the holes to push out a particularly obstinate piece of cheese onto a plate.
For hard cheeses, traditionalists like to use small ‘hatchet’ like knives that prevent them from having to saw and hack away at a cheese that will crumble all over the place when they do. With semi-hard cheeses, many people like to use the cheese plane, which they drag across the surface of the cheese to get neat and even slices.
But what about the upturned bit? What’s that all about? That’s simple. It simply allows the cutter to prod the piece of cheese that they have just cut, and to give it to a fellow diner (or guest if they are a waiter) without touching it first.
Whilst there are at least 9 different types of cheese knife out there, we have kept it simple by selecting just one shape, our favourite, for our Sheffield made, British wood handled range of Forest and Forge knives. It’s a traditional shape with an upturned end to the blade, and we chose a beautiful Applewood handle to accentuate the craftsmanship.
Also, an apple is the most wonderful fruit to accompany a good piece of cheese.