Lancashire cheese has been produced at Lower Beesley Farm by the Kirkham family for three generations. Located near near Goosenagh, in the county of Lancashire, the family is one of only a handful of cheesemakers still making traditional Lancashire in the United Kingdom.
Milk comes from their small herd of Friesian-Holstein cows that are cared for by John Kirkham. Until a few years ago, his wife Ruth made the cheeses, but she has now handed the cheesemaking over to her son Graham.
Production of Lancashire is quite a unique process. Each morning raw, cooled milk from the previous evening's milking is added to warm, morning milk. Starter culture and rennet are added before the curd is cut by hand and allowed to settle, thereby retaining as much fat as possible within the curd.
After the whey is drained off, the curd is transferred to another container where it is broken up. In keeping with traditional Lancashire production, Graham then mixes curd from the previous day's production in equal quantities with the curd from the current batch. The curds are milled, salted, molded and pressed - the exterior cloth or bandage being applied between pressings. Cheeses are then coated with a liberal layer of butter and allowed to mature.
The Kirkham's like to mature the cheese for at least six weeks before they leave the farm. This produces a cheese that is mild, creamy and slightly crumbly. Cheeses are made in three different sizes, the smallest of which (6.5lbs.) is reserved for the Christmas market, while the midi and large wheels (25lbs. and 40 lbs. respectively) are sold year round.
The larger wheels continue to mature for up to 12 months, at which point flavors are at their fullest and most rounded. Midi size wheels are usually sold at after three months.
The texture of Lancashire is moist, rich, crumbly and creamy - in fact locals refer to it as "buttery crumble," while Graham Kirkham calls it "fluffy monster!"
Flavors are buttery, lemony and yogurty, with a pronounced tang and a long, rounded finish.