Crumbly with a fresh tangy
is considered to be the oldest British cheese. It is mentioned in the
Doomsday book (1086) and probably dates back to Roman times. Genuine Cheshire
is said to be made with the milk from cattle grazed on the salty pastures
of the Cheshire plain in Cheshire, Shropshire and Clwyd. It was so popular
in London at one time that cheeses had to be shipped from Liverpool to
London in order to keep up with the demand.
Cheshire is naturally a light golden colour, it is more often dyed to
a rich orange using annatto. Legend has it that because its reputation
was so good, some Welsh farmers labelled their own cheese as Cheshire
and sold it to coach travellers on the Holyhead to London route. The Londoners
were unhappy when they tasted the inferior cheese back at home and thus
the name of Cheshire cheese began to fall into disrepute. The Welsh farmers
were told to dye their cheese in order to distinguish it from real Cheshire.
However, the new coloured cheese quickly became fashionable and the Cheshire
makers soon found themselves having to follow suit. Thus, red Cheshire
takes only two to three hours to make. The morning milk is added to the
previous evening's milk, and after coagulation the curds are scalded in
the whey for about 40 minutes. The whey is drained off very quickly while
the cheese-maker cuts the curds and then tears it into small pieces. It
is then salted, milled and put into moulds to be pressed for 24 to 48
hours. The Applebys still use unpasteurised milk and bandage their cheese
in the traditional way using cloths dipped in lard. Although they have
a large farm with 290 Fresian cows and a cheese vat that appears to be
the size of a swimming pool, they still are still able to make one of
the finest Cheshires to be found.
smoking cheeses was used as a preservative, but today it is being increasingly
used by farmhouse cheesemakers to add an extra dimension to their cheese.
Before smoking a cheese, it is cut into four wheels. This enables the
smoky flavour to fully penetrate. The Applebys smoke their Cheshire cheeses
over oak bark, to give the rich distinctive flavour. The rind becomes
darker brown and has a fabulous smoky aroma. Interestingly, the paste
becomes a little paler.
wheel of the smoked cheese is approximately 7-8cm tall, 20cm in diameter,
weighs 2kg and has a fat content of 48%. Smoked cheese makes a more unusual
addition to a cheese board, or can be enjoyed on its own with a glass
of cider for example.