Appleby’s Cheshire

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.

Domesday Book

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!

The Cheese

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.

To drink

I think one of the ultimate pairings is an Appleby’s Cheshire and a mild malt whisky. Avoid the smoky ones.

A bit of cheese history

If you want to learn how it all came about, you should listen to this podcast. Takes a small hour altogether, and think it is worth it. A bit of cheese history in other words.

So of you follow this podcast link you will have an entertaining hour of listening and become cheese enlightened as well!

Even pulling apart some of the established truths about the early days of cheese making. Where it all started stands firm, though.

Enjoy your listening.

Island Cheese

I’ve been traveling. To the Shetland Islands, Scotland. Not very typical cheese land, but still. I was there for other reasons than cheese, so I did not visit the only cheese factory there is on the island, Shetland Cheese situated in Skeld, a 45-minute-drive from Lerwick.
I did take a cheese platter at the hotel where I lived, though. All pasteurized and OK but not extraordinary. Rather mild.

At the local Tesco I found White Stilton which I had never had before. I will leave that for a later occasion. Th other cheese I found was from The Orkney Cheese Company. A 200g flow pack wrapped piece of cheese. Pretty sceptical this guy, but I’ve heard cheese from the Orkney Islands is pretty good. Well, the main cheese i have heard from but never tasted is Seator’s Orkney.

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I did not taste the Orkney Mature Scottish Island Cheddar until I arrived home. And I must admit as I have tasted it over a few days it brings out more each time. The only thing I cannot find is a nutty taste that the manufacturer says it shows. I am not able to detect it.

The Story

This cheese has a special story. During the last war the Orkney Island received some 60 000 servicemen that were based on the island. After a while 550 POW arrived as well. Not so much the POW, but the 60 000 servicemen posed a food challenge. The farmers were not prepared for this, but they had to step up production rather rapidly to avoid lack of milk, meat and local produce. That worked out fine.

But eventually peace arrived and all the servicemen went home. So did the POWs. The latter left behind them a beauty of a chapel that can still be visited. The former a huge surplus of everything farmed. Long story short, a cooperative was formed and a dairy built and inaugurated in 1946. The rest i history. You can find cheese from the Orkney’s all over Britain and maybe abroad as well, I do not know.
It is pasteurized I must admit. With only 26 members of this cooperative I think it should be possible the make unpasteurized cheese. It is matured for a while as well, so the risk of contamination is rather low I would reckon. Awarded PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) in 2013, something of which they are, quite understandably, very proud.

..and cooking..

Good for cooking as well as most cheaddars, should add a fine touch to any dish.

Taste

Rather milky I would say. Creamy texture in the mouth. Mild but with a lot of body and rather long for a pasteurized cheese. Distinct saltiness, but nothing like the levels you may find in blue cheeses. Rather balanced I would say.

To drink

They make whisky on the Islands, but I am not familiar with the style. If it has too much smoke it will definitely kill the cheese. So if whisky is your preferred pairing you should look for a very mild one. Ale would pair well, I am a fan of Bitter from my student days in Manchester. Otherwise a good cup of tea.

Did you know?

cropped-Header-tilpasset-cropping.jpgCheese is made from milk, the most common being cow, sheep and goat. But you also have buffalo (Mozzarella) and cheese from yak milk among numerous other varieties. Donkey as well. Further, different manufacturing and aging processes are used to produce the array of cheeses available today. Cheese is made by coagulating or curdling milk, stirring and (in some cases) heating the curd, draining off the whey (the watery part of milk that Norwegians boil into the famous brown cheese or «Geitost»), collecting and pressing the curd, and in some cases, ripening. Cheese can be made from whole, low fat, skimmed or fat-free milk, or combinations of these milks. In the US about one-third of all milk produced each year is used to make cheese.

Not all «cheese» is cheese

Some of the shredded cheese you can buy has added various types of flour, which means it’s not cheese but some other look-a-like product that probably melts well and is intended to give the impression of being cheese.

Salvadore Dali

Did you know that Salvadore Dalí was inspired by melting Camembert when he painted the classicThe Persistence of Memory a.k.a. Melting Clocks