During my student days in Manchester I built a close relationship to british cheese. Probably not Appleby’s Cheshire, though. Mostly the industrial melt on a sandwich types, Cheshire included, but not Appleby’s. From that student perspective I brought with me the impression that british cheese is rather one dimensional. Semi firm, crumbly, with or without annatto. Well, the annatto thing I have learnt later. So wrong can I be. Britain is a cheese paradise and very diversified.
Time to visit?
It’s a shame I have not been there for years even though it is just a short flight from Oslo. Well, not quite correct, I “frequently” travel to Lerwick, Shetland, but not much time for cheese on these travels, and not that the Lerwick Tesco has that much to offer other than the very traditional. But still, I always bring home some cheese from this Tesco. If for nothing else; nostalgia. These Lerwick trips are also rather hectic and neither the Sumburgh nor Aberdeen airports are showcases for local produce.
No, what I mean is e.g. a week traveling around sampling cheese and taking in the British atmosphere and countryside in general. Pub grub and a pint of good bitter. Well, it will come.
Cheese with a history
So let’s turn to cheese and what is more natural than hitting off with the oldest there is on the isles, Appleby’s Cheshire. Cow’s milk cheese. Unpasteurized and English. Cheshire is a cheese from the county of Cheshire in the north west of England. At least originally. Bordering Greater Manchester and Merseyside if you’re anything into soccer. And Shropshire. And thats’s actually the county where the Appleby’s Cheshire is made. Near Hawkstone. In other words; a Cheshire from Shropshire. Artisan cheese from the Appleby family at the Abbey farm by the river Dee. The very last true Cheshire cheese, clothbound, unpasteurized and made by enthusiasts.
This is a cheese with a history. Generally accepted as Britain’s oldest, back to Roman times, and mentioned in the Domesday Book from 1086. This Survey ordered by the King William the Conqueror. Well documented in other words. And just to really rub it in, the Appleby’s Cheshire was found in any city and town of any importance mid 1700, brought around via all the canals running through the English countryside. They knew their logistics at that time as well. And even more, the Cheese of Choice on board Admiral Nelson’s ship The Victory. Appleby’s Cheshire has won wars!
So what kind off cheese is it, and why this post about a cheese most people probably haven’t heard of? Well, the latter is a good enough reason in itself. More people should become aware of this cheese. If you’ve had British cheese you have probably had Cheshire. The industrial type I bet. Ixt is my personal impression that this style of british cheese has a very pronounced acidity. Not so with the Appleby’s Cheshire. And that is how it was made originally, mind you.
A semi firm cheese with a flaky and crumbly texture. Made with vegetable rennet. Comes in cylinders and the color is what I would call salmon pink due to the addition of moderate amounts of annatto. Mild, but develops more taste with age. Fantastic with ripe fresh figs or marmalade, even dates. Good on its own, as part of a ploughman’s of course. It also melts well, so it’s excellent for cooking and of course on toast.
If you are more into French cheese, it may well remind you of Cantal or even Salers. It is not unlikely the crusaders brought the Cheshire recipe to Auvergne (and even Spain) on their travels (to put it that way).
I do not know much about the distribution other than Neal’s Yard has taken it under its wings. That’s a sign of quality, by the way. So if in London, that’s a place to look for it. Further I expect any decent cheese shop sells it.
I think one of the ultimate pairings is an Appleby’s Cheshire and a mild malt whisky. Avoid the smoky ones.