When I posted my Ploughman’s Lunch recently, I mentioned that the cheese I used was a nice Cheshire Cheese. It occurred to me after the fact that said cheese deserves a bit more of a mention, particularly as it is not especially well known here in Canada. This is a bit surprising really because, in Britain, whence it hails, it is very nearly as popular as Cheddar cheese. Cheshire Cheese originates in the English county of Cheshire but is nowadays made farther afield. Like Cheddar, it is made in a ‘White’ form (actually an off-white, really), and also a ‘Red’ form, where Annatto Seeds are used to dye the product a deep orange color. Traditionally, there was also a blue-veined variety (a la Stilton, for example), and, while this almost disappeared for a long time, it is apparently making something of a comeback.
By the way, the variety I recently discovered in my local supermarket is a product of Coombe Castle™ , whose logo I have added to the picture above. I can’t speak with vast experience on all the different versions of Cheshire Cheeses, but I can say that this particular product is broadly representative of the class as best as I can distinguish.
Cheshire Cheese is generally classed as a ‘crumbly’ cheese but, while this is generally true, it will vary in ‘crumbliness’ depending on the manufacturer. The cheese you see above has a texture that is not terribly dissimilar to a typical cheddar except that, rather than cut cleanly, will flake and crumble slightly under the knife blade… not to the same degree as, say, a dry Feta, for example, but in a way that is noticeable in the mouth-feel. Some describe Cheshire as being a bit like a mild Cheddar but I really don’t see that at all (not the least because both cheese types vary from mild to strong, dependent on aging and the like). Cheddar tends to be a little sharper, with more of a lactic acid ‘bite’, in my experience, while Cheshire is distinguished by more of a pungent quality that is slightly reminiscent of ‘blue’ cheeses (albeit much more delicately).
Anyway, Cheshire Cheese is well worth the try if you haven’t done so already. It is not quite as versatile as a generic Cheddar, I find, (most varieties don’t melt quite as nicely, for example), but it is nicely rounded without any of the ‘extreme’ notes that might put off all but the most ardent cheese lovers. It will always make a great addition to a cheese board…