The Appleby family have been making cheese at Hawkstone Abbey Farm in Cheshire, England for three generations. The farm and dairy are managed by Edward and Christine Appleby, helped by their children Paul and Clare and daughter in law Sarah.
Raw milk for cheesemaking comes from their own herd of Friesian Holstein cows that graze on pastures planted with traditional slow-growing grasses. The natural salt and mineral deposits in the sandy earth of the Cheshire Plain come through in these grasses, and it is said that these contribute to the subtle mineral flavours of the Appleby’s cheeses.
In addition, the cows are fed maize, wholecrop and grass silage. The silage, which has more dry matter than grass, helps the cows create more fats and proteins in the milk, affecting the flavor and texture of the finished cheese.
The Applebys work with head cheesemaker Garry Gray to produce both Cheshire and Double Gloucester cheeses. Less acidic and smoother in texture than Cheshire, Double Gloucester is a three hundred year old recipe, which the Appleby’s resurrected in 1986.
The family researched the making of Double Gloucester using the original recipe book from when Lucy Appleby MBE, Edward’s mother, learnt her craft of cheese making at Reaseheath College. After years of experimenting, the family eventually found their preferred recipe from the archives of the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food and this recipe continues to be used today.
Gloucester cheese comes in both Single and Double varieties. Single Gloucester is made from partly skimmed milk resulting in a cheese usually 2-2.5” high.
On the other hand, Double Gloucester is made from whole fat milk taken from both the morning and evening milking to make a cheese of usually 4.5” high. The whole fat milk results in a cheese which is richer and creamier in texture than the Single Gloucester version. The orange colored paste is a result of the addition of annatto, a natural vegetable coloring that has been a traditional characteristic of Gloucester cheese since the 16th Century.
Appleby’s Double Gloucester uses the same ingredients as Appleby’s Cheshire (see separate entry) with variations during production with the timing, temperature and acidity of the curd.
It takes around 4 hours 20 minutes, at a temperature of up to 102 degrees Fahrenheit, for the milk to reach the correct acidity after renneting, compared to just over 3 hours for Cheshire, at a lower temperature. The cut curds are then pressed for 48 hours and then wrapped in cloth, before being matured for up to 8 weeks.
The resulting cheese has a firm yet moist texture. Flavors are remeniscent of warm, buttered toast with underlying notes of minerals and salt a lengthy, slightly tangy finish.