What is Lancshire Cheese
This may be one of the quickest and best pressed cheese you have ever made.
"a cheese that can be spread with the knife, and at its best is mellow and delicious... Its richness of flavor is superb. It has the opulence of a fine old Madeira." 1935 Osbert Burdett
Lancashire is a cheese Typically made ~14” diameter weighing 40-50lbs
Originally Lancashire cheese was made as a farmhouse cheese combining curds made over several days to make a single cheese. Over the course of the 20th Century Lancashire cheese has been adapted for factory production and today is made on a range of scales, from farmhouse style to industrial. However only one true farmhouse cheese is made today.
The History of Lancashire Cheese
Lancashire is one of the great British cheeses that has been all but lost to the progress of the world.
This cheese dates back to a time when Viking communities influenced parts of Greater Britain. Pre 12-13th century cheese was made in that region and was eventually called Lancashire, although the process and results may have been inconsistant.
A cheese bearing the name Lancashire, likely the name of the village or farm where it was first made, ranged in quality. Many at that time were not what we consider to be 'great cheese' because sanitation and milk quality were not a priority, or even a known consideration. Eventually things became more organized, a more refined cheese developed which was quite popular.
In the past farms were small and the cheeses were large, for transport. There was usually not enough milk for a full cheese in one day and sometimes they would need three days to produce a full cheese. That was the way Lancashire was made for hundreds of years or more, the real deal.
And then came the 20th century, two wars and the Milk Marketing Board which all but led to Lancashires disappearance. However a shorter version of the recipe and larger dairies put it back on the market.
During the mid 20th century, the process was revised from the multi-day process and was adapted for larger milk supplies from bigger dairies. Once modernized, the make process could be completed in a single day.
Today, there is only one producer making Lancashire the traditional way. It's called ‘Mrs Kirkhams’ and has been made for three generations, the last Mrs K recently handed it off to her son Graham Kirkham.
For this guideline we're focusing on the quicker onw day process and will revit this cheese in the near future for the more traditional multi day process.
The Origin of Lancashire Cheese
Lancashire cheesemaking country is renowned for its rich grassland which leads to high quality milk and inevitably great cheese. The Lancashire cheesemakers are all located within a few square miles on the edge of the Forest of Bowland. The history of cheesemaking in the area can be traced back through the ages.
Bowland itself derives from the Norse meaning cattle land, remember this was Viking territory.
Cheesemaking in this region can be traced back as far as the 12th century and by the 1300s records
In the late 18th century the Lancashire tradition of cheesemaking became standardized to a degree but still had inconsistencies although it still resembled the Tasty Lancashire of today.
Making this cheese involved breaking the curd and blending it with curds from the previous days milking. The mixed curds were then pressed, turned, salted and clothed to make the final cheese. It's this unique method of mixing curds that gave Lancashire its distinctive flavour.
By the late 19th century the process was even more defined and recognized as the standard from Lancashire county. This standardized guideline and method is still adhered to today.
During the early 1900s Lancashire cheese had found its place with over 200 farms and creameries, producing around 4800 tons of Lancashire cheese yearly.
However the Second World War put put the breaks on the success of Lancashire Cheese production because it was a soft cheese and unsuitable for rationing. When Lancashire cheese production was again permitted in 1948 there were only 22 farms making Lancashire cheese.
Today there is only one, “Mrs. Kirkhams” making it with raw milk and combining curds from multiple days.