Saturday in the Kitchen: Cheshire Cheese

Ms. Jeannie’s new discovery, crumbly Cheshire cheese

It’s a cool, cloudy, over-cast day in Ms. Jeannie’s world today – the perfect atmosphere to accompany her new blog post all about Cheshire cheese from England.

It was experimentation lunch on Saturday in the Ology household! Always up for a game of  “see-what-you-think-about-this-cheese,” Mr. Jeannie Ology, brought home a package of newly discovered Cheshire cheese from the market. Paired with a few local apples, a baguette and a new bottle of  Italian  il Carnevale di Venezia Pinot Grigio  – it was a feast in the making!

il Carnevale di Venezia Garganega Pinot Grigio from Veneto, Italy

Well, sort of.

Oh dear readers, have you ever tried Cheshire cheese? If so, please comment.

Ms. Jeannie was surprised to find that it was a very dry, dense cheese and very very crumbly. Similar in texture to feta but not as salty and not as moist, it reminded Ms. Jeannie a lot of curds in cottage cheese minus the creaminess.  Mr. Jeannie Ology was not really a fan at all – preferring more the strong pungent textures and consistency of blue cheeses, aged cheddars and smoked goudas.

Very crumbly – this Cheshire cheese was!

Ms. Jeannie had to agree. This cheese was incredibly mellow, so mellow, in fact  she believes it might have actually gotten lost somewhere on its transatlantic journey to America.  Perhaps though, she was at fault. Did she pair it with all the wrong flavors?

The pinot grigio also turned out to be very light in taste – although not bad –  it would have made a far better picnic wine on a hot summer day.  What was really needed now, wine-wise, to go with the cheshire was something that was complex and full-bodied, something overflowing with flavor that might have helped develop the subtly of the cheese. Sorry light Italian wine.

The apples were even a poor match, with their crunchy crispiness. Because the Cheshire was so dry, something more along the lines of an apple chutney would have been lovely. It could have surrounded the cheese like a nice hug.  Or a fruit, drippy with it’s own juices like a mango, or an over-ripe plum or a mixture of crushed berries – that would have been equally delicious. But fruit companions pose their own set of problems – because we are no longer in summer fruit season.

So what to do with this non-chalant little wonder of a cheese?  Ms. Jeannie took to the research department…

Hailing from Cheshire County in North West,  England, as it turns out, Cheshire cheese is one of the oldest cheeses in Britain. It’s crumbly, dense, ultra-firm texture was created purposefully, so that the cheese would remain intact while being transported to market in wagons and carriages. Aha!

At the start it had many many friends, including the Royal Army who stocked only cheshire cheese on their ships. Throughout the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, cheshire cheese reigned supreme. It wasn’t until the mid 1960’s that it began to see a decline in favoritism. Mostly this is accredited to the industrialization of the cheese making process, and now there are only a handful of farms making cheshire cheese the traditional way – which apparently – is the flavorful way.

1903 Map of England – (Cheshire in orange, top middle) from bananastrudel

Cheshire, England. Photo courtesy of oldukphotos.com

Cheshire cheese comes in three colors: red, white and blue (very patriotic!).  The white variation (what Ms. Jeannie sampled above) is the youngest of the three. The red, which is actually a pumpkin color is tinted with annato (a pulpy American tree seed used for dying fabrics and food) and the blue, which is aged with mold, resembles more of a veiny blue cheese. Perhaps Mr. Jeannie Ology would have liked that one better!

As far as recipes, Ms. Jeannie headed to epicurious.com to see how they suggested cooking with this now famous cheese. Surprisingly, there were only two recipes listed! How could this be, with a cheese that has existed since the 1600’s?!

Search results for Cheshire cheese on epicurious.com

One recipe was for Scottish farmhouse eggs, which is  essentially scrambled eggs with cheese and onions; and the other, a crabmeat crostini with chives and creme fraiche. Both, Ms. Jeannie noted, enhanced the cheese with a bit of cream (is this a hint?!)

The latter recipe also recommended a pinot grigio as a wine pairing, which would be lovely considering in addition to crabmeat and cheese, the recipe included tangy lemon and lime juices along with a peppery hot sauce. Sounds delicious!

Further research turned up the British Cheese Board website, which turned out be the equivelant of winning the cheese recipe lottery! There was a bevy of cheshire cheese recipes (organized by season, no less), along with other recipes for wonderfully obscure cheeses like Caerphilly, Cornish Yarg and Wensleydale. Such delightful names – thank you England! Wensleydale, in particular sounds like a new day of the week — as in — “Oh darling, let’s not go Monday or Tuesday – let’s go Wensleydale!”  So now we know – if need a new cheese recipe – stop by and visit the BCB. 

Ms. Jeannie will keep you posted on how some of these new recipes turn out, but in the meantime, if you have any suggestions as to how you like your Cheshire – please let us know!

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