Production of Cheshire by the Appleby family takes place at Abbey Farm at Hawkstone in Shropshire, England.
Mentioned in the Domesday book of 1,086, Cheshire is England's oldest named cheese and quite probably was made by the Romans 1,000 years earlier. Almost all modern Cheshire production is mechanized, the one exception being the Appleby family who have made Cheshire cheese for several generations and still produce a hand made, cloth-bound cheese made to a traditional recipe in open vats. Today, the day to day cheesemaking takes place under the guidance of Gary Gray, who works closely with the Appleby's.
Appleby's Cheshire is made using Friesian milk from the Appleby's own farm. Their closed herd of 290 cows graze on the salty pastures at the edge of the Cheshire Plain. This is an area extremely rich in minerals, and not surprisingly, one of the main characteristics of traditional Cheshire is a uniquely complex mineral flavor.
Cheeses are made using morning and evening milk with the addition of a home produced starter culture. Appleby's makes both white (uncolored) Cheshire and the more familiar red cheeses, dyed with anatto (a natural coloring derived from the South American Anatto shrub) that has been traditionally used in Chesire production for centuries.
For production, the coagulated milk is cut, stirred, scalded very slightly, stirred continuously until the correct acidity is acheived. It is then cut into blocks and broken - as opposed to being stacked and flipped, which is the process for cheddar production. Finally, the curds are salted and milled and placed in cylindrical, cloth-lined molds to be pressed overnight.
The following day they are pressed again before being unmolded and bound in calico (cheesecloth), which allows the cheeses to breathe and mature as they age.
The minimum time for aging ranges from six weeks for the smallest wheels to two to ten months for the largest, 62lb. cheeses.
The texture of Appleby's Cheshire is firm, yet moist and flaky. The color of the paste can be either a gentle orange or, in the case of the uncolored cheese, a creamy off-white.
Flavors are rich and minerally, with savory vegetal notes of grass, making this a mellow very accessible cheese that pairs very well with a glass of dark ale.