Cheshire cheese is a young, crumbly cow’s-milk cheese that comes from Cheshire County in England. Available in white, red, and blue varieties, it is one of the oldest cheeses made in England and has been produced in the same region for hundreds of years. Now available all over the world, Cheshire cheese is semi-firm and though it is easily crumbled for serving or addition to salads and other dishes, it has a smooth velvety texture that can melt on the tongue. Somewhat similar to cheddar, it has a taste and quality all its own, and pairs well with certain white and red wines.
Though modern Cheshire cheese is typically only aged about six to eight weeks, in the past these cheeses would sometimes be aged somewhat longer to make them more resilient to travel and storage. With the advent of faster transportation methods and cold storage, Cheshire cheese could be sold younger and kept fresh for eating and serving. This allows the cheese to be softer, yet still firm enough for easy slicing and crumbling for a number of different servings and applications.
White Cheshire is not dyed and is a slightly yellow, creamy color with a rich salty flavor and a smooth texture on the tongue. The unique flavor of the cheese likely comes from the diet of the cows that eat from fields high in sodium. Cheshire County has also historically been a major producer of salt in England as well as cheese. This higher sodium level of the soil affects the diet of the cow, which in turn enters the milk, and ultimately gives the cheese made from that milk a distinguished, salty flavor similar to cheddar but uniquely rich with surprising depth.
Red Cheshire cheese is actually closer to orange in color, which comes from the addition of annatto, often used to produce red food coloring. This particular variation of the cheese was often sold to travelers in certain regions and became so popular that other Cheshire cheese producers began dying their cheese to match customer demand. At one point, Cheshire cheese was so popular that the British Royal Navy required the stocking of it on ships in the 18th century.
Blue Cheshire cheeses have blue veins running throughout them, similar to other blue cheeses, including Stilton cheese also produced in England. Blue Cheshire is not as popular as Stilton and is only made by a handful of Cheshire cheese producers. Cheshire can be included in baked dishes or in salads and is often enjoyed as an appetizer with crackers or simply paired with fruit such as grapes or wines like Riesling or Cabernet Sauvignon.