Gloucester Cheese has been made in Gloucestershire since the 1500s. There are two versions: Single Gloucester and Double Gloucester.
Both cheeses are round. Double Gloucester was called “double” because, at 5 inches (13 cm) thick, it was double the width of the Single Gloucester.
Both Single and Double Gloucester were originally made with tough rinds, and made with milk from the “Old Gloucester” breed of cows. In 1972, only 68 of these cows remained in the world, but the breed was revived when Charles Martell formed the Gloucester Cattle Society. There are now (2004) 730 breeding females.
Double Gloucester used to be the more desirable version. It was made with full-fat milk, whereas Single Gloucester was made from the milk run-off from making butter. Now, owing to the EU regulations which have restricted the production of Single Gloucester, the situation is reversed, and Single Gloucester has become rare and expensive with only two producers.
Starter culture and rennet are added to skim milk from Old Gloucester cows. The milk is allowed to curdle. The curds are then cut, and heated for about half an hour to 95 F (35 C.) The whey is then drained, the curd is mixed and salted, then put into moulds and pressed for 5 days. Then the cheese is removed from the moulds and aged for two months.
It ends up as a semi-firm cheese with a sticky orangey-coloured rind.
Single Gloucester was granted EU PDO (“Protected Designation of Origin”) in 1997. Before that, Single Gloucester made with milk from the Old Gloucester cows was quite rare — because there were hardly any of that breed left, it was made with skim milk from any cows. Now, the PDO rules state that Single Gloucester must be made only with milk from Old Gloucester cows, and that the milk must also come from a herd owned by that cheesemaker. With that stipulation, and given the few actual Old Gloucester cattle that there are, Single Gloucester is as rare as hen’s teeth and very expensive. Some wags have dubbed this another EU success story.
Double Gloucester is made from whole milk from any cow and aged for six months. Because whole milk is used, Double Gloucester is creamier than Single Gloucester. The cheese is hard and pale orange.
Half-Fat Double Gloucester
Half Fat Double Gloucester has half the fat (16%) of Double Gloucester. The taste is a bit milder, and the cheese is harder.
It is made from pasteurized milk. It can be grated or served as a table cheese.
Literature & Lore
A cheese roll has been held at Cooper’s Hill, near Gloucester for several hundred years. Entrants chase a Double Gloucester cheese weighing 7 to 8 pounds (3 to 3.6 kg) down the hill. There are actually four separate races for different categories of entrants. The contest has been held annually at the end of May since 1967 to coincide with the long weekend then in England; historically, it was held at midsummer.
During World War Two food rationing, a wooden replica cheese with a small amount of actual cheese inside it was used.
No one is certain how the event started.
The winner gets to keep the cheese.
BBC. Roll that cheese in 2006! 10 May 2005. Retrieved July 2011 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire/content/articles/2005/05/10/cheese_rolling_feature.shtml