CHEESE MAKING THROUGH THE CENTURIES

Here in Lancashire we have a tradition of cheese making that goes back centuries. Today the county’s cheese makers are renowned worldwide for their cheeses many of which stay true to the original family recipes

The countryside of the Ribble Valley and the Forest of Bowland is renowned for its rich grassland, which results in superb quality milk and inevitably delicious cheese.

Lancashire is the only county to have its name linked with three types of cheese – creamy, crumbly and tasty Lancashire.

The recipe for traditional Lancashire cheese (both creamy and tasty) is unique in Britain in that it blends the curds from different milkings. This originally came about when dairy farmers’ wives living on small farms made cheese from surplus milk. When there was insufficient milk from a single day to make a cheese, each day’s milk was curdled and accumulated for several days until there was enough curd to make a cheese.

Uniquely amongst all British cheeses, two or three days’ curd of varying maturity are blended together, giving Lancashire cheese a distinctive character, which creates a cheese with a depth of flavour, added complexity and a texture that gives an ideal melting consistency.

Creamy Lancashire is a mild cheese that is matured for only two to three months. As a toasting cheese it has no equal as it is famed for its melting qualities, retaining its texture and flavour with little stringiness when cooked. Once the curds were mixed they were then pressed in a stone cheese press, turned, clothed and salted.

Stone cheese presses were once an integral part of the Lancashire cheese making process and more than 300 cheese stones can still be found in the Lancashire landscape, often lying close to the farm where they were originally used.

Tasty Lancashire cheese is made by the same traditional method as creamy Lancashire, but is matured for longer, from 12 weeks to 24 months. It has a mature nutty taste.

Crumbly Lancashire was created in the 1950s and unlike the other varieties, this is made from a single day’s milk and resembles other crumbly cheeses such as Cheshire and Wensleydale. It tends to be matured for six to eight weeks, resulting in a crumbly, fresh, high-acid cheese.

Some of Lancashire’s most famous cheesemakers are all located within a few square miles on the edge of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where the history of cheese making can be traced back many centuries.

These include Dewlay, which recently took a hoard of medals and trophies at the International Cheese Awards held at Nantwich making 2016 one of the most successful years for the family owned dairy: “We’re absolutely delighted to bring the awards back to the dairy and congratulate our team who work tirelessly to cement our reputation for producing award-winning Lancashire cheese,” says Nick Kenyon, who with his brother Richard, own and manage the company their grandfather George Kenyon established in 1957.

Butlers cheese, whose family first began making farmhouse cheese in 1932, also took awards at the event along with Leagrams in Chipping and Singletons.

Now run by the third generation, Butlers has become one of the best known names among Lancashire cheeses which are based on recipes handed down through the family.

Leagrams cheese began with the late Bob Kitching, who spent 30 years making Lancashire cheese in the picturesque village of Chipping. As artisan cheese-makers, Leagrams continue to produces a range of cheese using milk sourced from herds run on organic farms close to the dairy.

With the reputation for producing some of the strongest tasting of the county’s cheeses, Singleton’s Dairy began making cheese on their farm near Beacon Fell over 80 years ago.

Procters is also a family business producing a wide range of cheeses from Greenfields Dairy including several distinctly flavoured cheeses and Mrs Kirkhams have been making cheese on their farm for more than three decades using milk from their own herd. Cheeses are made by blending curds from six milkings and are matured for up to six months.

Sandham’s cheese was founded in 1929 by John James Sandham, and today the cheese produced stays true to its original recipe.

There is even a four-mile Lancashire Cheese Trail that starts and finishes in Chipping. For more details go to: www.forestofbowland.com

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