The Oldest Cheese Made in Britain
Taste a slice of Cheshire Cheese and you will grin like the Cheshire Cat! A favorite of the British Navy, it will be one of your favorites too!
"Cheshire is not only the most literary cheese in England, but the oldest. It was already manufactured when Caesar conquered Britain, and tradition is that the Romans built the walled city of Chester to control the district where the precious cheese was made.
Cheshire first came to fame with The Old Cheshire Cheese Inn in Elizabethan times and waxed great with Samuel Johnson presiding at the Fleet Street Inn where White Cheshire was served "with radishes or watercress or celery when in season," and "Red Cheshire was served toasted or stewed in a sort of Welsh Rabbit."
The Blue Variety is called Cheshire-Stilton, and Vyvyan Holland, in Cheddar Gorge suggests that
"it was no doubt a cheese of this sort, discovered and filched from the larder of the Queen of Hearts, that accounted for the contented grin on the face of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland." (credit: The Complete Book of Cheese by Robert Carlton Brown via Project Gutenberg's eBook)
It has long been one of England's favorite cheeses. In fact the Royal Navy always stocks its ships with a plentiful supply. Farmhouse Cheshire cheese is always made from RAW (unpasteurized) cow's milk, and while true Farmhouse Cheshire (which is the Cheshire cheese you want to purchase) must be made from milk produced by the Friesian cattle in the Cheshire area...the color, size, shape and aging are not regulated.
Usually Cheshire is formed into cloth-wrapped drums which are 14 inches high with a diameter of 7-8 inches, weighing about 15 lbs. The drums are aged for 6 months up to a year. It is important that you seek out Genuine Farmhouse Cheshire which will always be stamped with the number of the farm where it was produced, the date it was made and a quality grading of either 'fine' or 'superfine'. It will be wrapped in cloth; it will rarely be waxed over the cloth.
The very best of the Farmhouse Cheshire is made by the Appleby family of Hawkstone Abbey Farm.
Other fine Cheshires are made by the Bourne family (The Bank brand) and some waxed Cheshires by Mollington Grange and Chorlton Lodge. Flavor-wise, Cheshire is rustic, not too strong, buttery and mild with a slighty salty, quintessentially cheesy flavor. (The soil in the Cheshire basin area has an underlying layer of bedrock salt which contributes to its distinctive flavor.) It is a dry cheese with an pale orange
color since it is organically dyed with annatto. The texture of Cheshire is a bit drier than Cheddar, but it is crumbly like
Lancashire cheese is actually considered part of the Cheddar family of cheeses. Unfortunately, today there is only one Farmhouse Lancashire still being made - and that is the Kirkham family's Beesley Farmhouse version which uses the curds from three different days of milking their Friesian cows.
During production, the 50lb cylinders of cheese are buttered and wrapped in cloth, then aged for 1-10 months. As a result, the soft texture starts to get firmer as it ages, but it is also creamy - almost a contradiction in terms!
Local folk call it a "buttery crumble". The flavor is not overpowering - simply delicious and understated. The Kirkham
family naturally uses raw milk. But most factory-produced Lancashire cheese is made from pasteurized milk. Lancashire melts so easily and well that it
is often used in Welsh Rarebit and other dishes calling for melted cheese. Give it a try - I'm sure you'll enjoy it!
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