I went to the cheese store yesterday to get some “just eating” cheese. It was great to feel like I actually had some idea about what to buy instead of feeling so overwhelmed. The gentleman before me ordered some Emmenthal and I almost stopped him to ask him if he was sure he “really wanted it,” but I didn’t . To each their own…but really, Emmenthal! Yuck!
For my own eating pleasure I ordered Cave Aged Gruyère, Old Amsterdam Gouda, and then some Beaufort D’Apage for my daughter, who is addicted. That selection should say something to you, if you know your cheese. These are all really, really aged, semi-firm cheeses that have spent a good deal of time in a cave, maturing. They are all quite strong with a tyrosine crunch of protein in them. It turns out that I like a little chew to my cheese, and I like a big bite. I’m also not crazy over ammonia in my cheese. Like my friends, I like my cheese a little aged, a little raunchy, a LOT sassy and with no discernible odour of urine.
Today is my first English Cheese! That took long enough What a oversite. Honestly, when I started this cheese journey I thought I would be in England quicker than day 49. Well thanks to Kirkhams Lancashire, I have arrived. Kirkham’s Lancashire is a raw milk cow cheese which according to its label is, “the most traditional Lancashire in production.” Of course, what the heck is a Lancashire cheese, anyway? You and I might rightly ask.
Well, Lancashire cheese has a several hundred year history in England, and is one of England’s founding cheeses. Lancashire was a true “subsistence cheese” which was traditionally made by dairy farmers for their own use from extra milk. Often farms wouldn’t have enough milk in any day to fill a cheese mould, so they would curd milk for three days in a row, and then make a cheese from these mixed curds. This unique technique is still used to make Lancashire cheese today. Three days worth of curd is milled to add a depth of flavour. The cheese maker can adjust any given batch of cheese for balance- some days it may call for a little more day one curd, other days, a little more day three.World War 2 almost did in Lancashire cheese, by 1948 most of the farms making it had closed down. Today there are only three farms making the real stuff. It’s on the verge of extinction.
Kirkham’s Lancashire is the most rhapsodized Lancashire out there, and the only one that seems to have made it across the pond to Canada. It’s the only one making raw milk Lancashire, and the only one with its own dairy-which seems to be crucial in making raw milk. Like all the best cheeses, it even has its own website! http://www.mrskirkhams.com/. According to the site, Mrs Ruth Kirkham has been making this cheese on the family farm-Beesley Farm-for over 30 years. She learned how to make this cheese from her own mother, and now her son, Graham, has taken over cheese production. So it’s all in the cheesy family. Kirkham’s uniquely uses butter to seal up these cheeses, it helps to the cheese to mature and keeps the texture-um, buttery! The family has been growing their herd and now have 100 cattle and a fancy new milking parlour. Dad still milks the cows every day, and mother and son make the cheese.
As you can see from my photo, it’s quite a crumbly looking little slice. Locals call this cheese a “buttery crumble,” however, apparently the Kirkham’s call it a “fluffy monster.” It’s a large cheese with no visible rind-I guess the butter coating is gone. You can see the pattern of curds in the cheese, I think that’s what’s making it crumble. It smells like lemon yoghurt, no whiff of ammonia or rot in the least.
Sour! Not lemony, but sour and salty. It’s not a fluffy monster, Mr. Kirkham, it’s a sour monster! Yikes, this cheese is not kind, nor subtle. The texture is really cool, I like how it crumbles before it even hits my mouth-but, holy Hannah, why is this cheese so sour? It doesn’t even taste like cheese. It tastes like dehydrated lemon yoghurt. This is not a sexy cheese. This is not a delicious cheese. This is a cheese that people ate because they had no options. Let’s try it melted…hmm, this mellows out the lemon and brings out a hint of blue-that’s different, it’s a totally new cheese melted. Still not my cup of cheese, any way you melt it.
This is a cheese that served a purpose for hundreds of years, and I respect that history-but with a low addiction factor and overly sour taste, this is not the cheese for me.