Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire
At Lower Beesley Farm near Goosnargh Village in the county of Lancashire, England, the Kirhkam family is making the world's last authentic raw-milk Lancashire cheese.
Residents of the property for over 70 years, the Kirhkams have made cheese here for three generations. It all started with Ruth, Mrs. Kirkham herself, in 1978. Eventually she handed the cheesemaking operation over to her son Graham, who runs the business today alongside his partner Kellie, their two sons, and a small staff. Milk is sourced from the farm's own herd of Holstein Friesian cows.
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 applied between multiple pressings. Cheeses are then coated with a liberal layer of butter and allowed to mature.
The Kirkhams like to mature the cheese for at least six weeks before it leaves the farm. This produces a wheel that is mild, creamy, and slightly crumbly. Cheeses are made in three different sizes, the smallest of which (at 6.5 pounds) is reserved for the Christmas market, while the midi and large wheels (25 and 40 pounds, respectively) are sold year-round.
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.
Pair Lancashire with cake—seriously! In its hometown, the wheel is traditionally eaten alongside eccles cake, a flaky currant-studded pastry, or the less-sweet chorley cake.