Cheshire Cheese can be made from pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s milk. Milk from the evening milking of the cows is let stand out overnight. The next day, milk from that morning’s milking is added, along with starter. It is allowed to coagulate into curds and whey, and then it is heated for about 3/4 hour, cooking the curds a bit in the whey. The whey is drained off, the curds are cut, salted and put into moulds. This part of the process takes only 3 hours. It is then pressed for 1 – 2 days. The cheese is then ripened anywhere from 1 to 2 months. Many producers go beyond that in aging, from 4 to 9 months. Cheeses that are aged this old are usually sold as “Farmhouse Cheshire.” The cheeses used to be wrapped in cloth soaked in lard before they were aged; some producers still do this.
Three main “types” of Cheshire are made: White, Red and Blue.
The white, which is actually pale yellow, is the natural colour of the cheese. Preferred in the south of England.
The Red is simply the White Cheshire coloured with annatto (before annatto was available at the end of the 1700s, carrot juice was used.) Preferred in the north of England. Taste is the same as for the White Cheshire.
Blue Cheshire, Blue Fade Cheshire, Green Fade Cheshire
The Blue is a variation that some of the White Cheshires develop on their own. They have blue veins in them, like Stilton, but are much milder. Locally, they are called “Blue Fade” or “Green Fade.” Preferred by the locals in Cheshire.
Producers are now also making speciality Cheshire Cheeses for the holidays, flavoured with Apricot, Ginger, Date & Walnut, etc.
Cheshire has a semi-firm, crumbly texture, and a mildly-salty flavour that sharpens with age and is a bit more complex than cheddar. The whites have to be monitored while they are aging as sometimes they can bet a bit bitter if allowed to get too old. A whole cheese drum typically weighs about 70 pounds (30 kg.)
The region for making the cheese roughly centres on Chester but extends into Lancashire, Northern Shropshire and Staffordshire. Some say that the salty-taste comes from the salt springs and deposits under this area, the Cheshire Plain, but no doubt the salt added just before the cheese is put into moulds helps a bit.
There is a Cheshire Cheese Federation to help promote the cheese.
Cheshire Cheese is a good cheese to cook with as it melts well. It is one of the best cheeses for a cheese sauce.
Cheddar, other crumbly white cheeses such as Caerphilly or Lancashire
Cheshire is one of the oldest varieties of cheese made in Britain. It was mentioned by Pantaleone da Confienza in his work “Trattato dei latticini” in 1477. Though it was certainly being made from cow’s milk by the late 1600s, as described in “The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelm Digby, Knight, Opened” (ca 1669), it is possible that up till the late Middle Ages it was made from goat’s or sheep’s milk, as cows were rare and prized mainly for their ability to give birth to oxen for the fields.
Standard marketing bumph for the cheese pretty much always mentions that the cheese is mentioned in the Domesday book. You never hear where or how, so when a copy of the book (it must be gripping reading, all that inventory of pigs and bushels of grain) can be procured that will be verified.