Day 50-Thomas Hoe Stevenson Red Leicestershire

My 50th cheese!  I’m half way through my journey of fromage.  This blog is getting older.  I am getting older.  Guess what else is getting older?  Did you guess cheese?  You would be correct.  One of the things I most love about cheese-and that’s saying quite a bit-is that it is aged, and often-the older it is-the better.  It’s the controlled falling into rot that fascinates me.  In this world of “fast food” cheese is the ultimate “slow food.”  Cheese is Zen.  Cheese teaches us to wait.  Cheese is wise.  I learn from cheese.

Today I kneel humbly before my cheese guru-Red Leicester, also known as Red Leicestershire, also known as Leicestershire cheese.  My particular sample is the “Thomas Hoe Stevenson” Leicestershire, a pasteurized English cow cheese, and a close cousin to cheddar although this one fits in the “English Crumbly” category, like yesterday’s cheese, Lancashire.

Leicester has an interesting history.  It’s been around in one form or another for hundreds of years.  This cheese was originally made on farms in Leicestershire with the extra left over milk from Stilton making, and was coloured with carrot or beet juice before annatto came along.  It’s interesting to me-as a younger sibling of a patently GREAT elder sibling-how many cheeses are made up with the leftovers of a great cheese, or the crap winter milk of a great cheese.  In a fit of cheese anthropomorphizing  (if it’s even possible to anthropomorphize cheese) I often feel great empathy for these cheeses-that’s a personal aside.   The county of Leicester was a hot bed of cheese back in the day, a cheese market was established in 1759 with regulations and rules about how the cheese was to be made and sold.    This early cheese board actually hired a  town crier to read aloud the punishments for any person trying to sell a bad cheese!

Cheese making in all forms came to a grinding halt in England in the second world war due to rationing. Many cheeses became extinct at this time.  The government also used WW2 as an opportunity to put in rules and regulations around specialty cheeses. Red Leicester was actually not made during this period as the addition of colouring agents was also banned during the war.  This cheese made it back from the brink of extinction and seems to be doing well these days, it’s made by a number of cheese makers.

My little slice of Red Leicestershire hails from Thomas Hoe Stevenson-which is a trademarked name owned by Long Clawson Dairy Limited (http://www.clawson.co.uk/.)  I’m not sure who Thomas Hoe Stevenson was, or why the Long Clawson Dairy uses his name as a trademark-honestly, I think “Long Clawson” Red Leicestershire has a better ring.  But no one asked me.  Long Clawson are essentially Stilton makers, and again, this poor cheese is made with the non-Stilton left over milk.  Red Leicestershire is cloth bound and buttered-and for the record-that sounds like fun!

 My slice of Red Leicestershire is quite a beautiful looking cheese.  It’s got a dark red-orange hue, like someone really went crazy with the annatto-it’s by far the reddest cheese I have ever seen.  It has a brown cloth rind that needs to be peeled off before eating. It has a crumbly looking interior structure-like a cheddar, it’s firm and hard .  The smell is faint and a little barnyardy, it’ been aged at least 9 months, so all the ammonia is long gone.
Here goes…
It tastes like cheddar that’s been hanging out in a horse stall for a little bit too long.  There’s a distinct “eau de barn” but I kind of like it.  Mmmmm.  It’s making my jaw squelch-do you know what I mean?  Some tangy cheeses actually make my saliva glands squirt, and it actually hurts just a little.  There’s a real tang to this cheese, but also a backing of acetone, and cow and yum. I have tasted this acetone flavour on one other occasion-Riopelle D’Isle and I don’t know what this taste is doing in either of these cheeses.  That being said, I do like it very much, so maybe it should be there.  It just seems kind of weird.   The texture is just great, very firm and crumbly.  Actually, this is a freaking great cheese.  It’s quite strong and packs a punch, but isn’t raunchy in the least.  If I were a town crier in the 1700’s in Leicestershire I would sing praises to this cheese, bravo, encore, well done!

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