One thing we do know about Cheshire cheese is that it was the most popular cheese in the marketplace in the 18th century. With almost every farm in Cheshire producing Farmhouse Cheshire cheese. So popular was Cheshire Cheese that special Cheese Fairs were established; in the market towns of Nantwich and Whitchurch. (Whitchurch is just over the border in Shropshire).
In 1660 Samuel Pepys wrote in his famous diaries “Hawley brought a piece of Cheshire Cheese, and we were merry with it” and it was recorded that during the English a Civil War over. 300 tons of Cheshire Cheese were sent to the troops in Scotland. In 1758 the Royal Navy ordered that the ships be loaded with Cheshire cheese for each voyage and in 1823 the county produced 10,000 tonnes of Cheshire cheese per annum rising to 12,000 in 1870.
Until the mid 19th century, Cheshire cheeses were matured for up to 8 months so that they could withstand the rigours of transportation by horse and cart. The cheese was taken as far as London where it was popular with the gentry and featured on the menus of the leading London clubs of the time.
Cheshire cheesemakers were, at one point encouraged, to make 3 types of cheese to match the milk quality achieved over the milking season: Early ripening (2-6 weeks), Medium ripening (2-4 months), and Long Keeping (6 -12 months).
The recipe for each variation was different; each requiring different volumes of moisture to be left in the curd. Over time, fewer cheesemakers made Long Keeping cheeses and by 1923 the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries provided detailed recipes for Medium Ripening Cheshire cheese, with only a quick note of the other two styles. Today there are only 2 versions of Cheshire Cheese to be made on the farm in the traditional and time-honoured way, the rest being made by large scale dairies.
John Bourne is one of the last Artisans to make Cheshire cheese in the traditional way. He makes his cheese in Malpas, on the Cheshire and Welsh borders. John Bourne’s Cheshire cheese still remains the only Cheshire cheese to be made on a Cheshire farm, that farm is The Banks
which has been farmed since the 1930s. Although, John Bournes family have been farming since the 17th century.
Each cheese is made with pasteurised milk from both morning and evening milk and vegetarian rennet by John Bourne and his head cheesemaker Paul who lovingly mix the starter and rennet to the Friesian milk before heating it in open vats thus allowing the curds and whey to form. The whey is then drained off, some to provide calf feed and some to make butter with whilst the curds are cut by hand and then pressed into cylindrical moulds for 36 hours before being allowed to mature for up to 12 months.
Cheese is wrapped in cloth after the cheese has been drained and removed from the mould, lard or similar is rubbed onto the cheese and only then is it wrapped in muslin. That muslin allows the cheese to breathe and provides a surface for the mould to grow on and not the cheese. This allows the rind to develop without the unwanted flavours of mould.
John Bourne’s Cloth Bound Cheshire cheese is, without doubt, the most traditional of Cheshire cheeses with its moist, crumbly texture and mild, salty flavour. Whilst salt is added to production, the pastures around Cheshire sit above huge salt deposits which find its way into the watercourses and is captured in the grass.
Unlike many other cheesemakers who use industrial production methods, John uses traditional ‘hands on’ techniques to produce cheeses that have been awarded gold, silver and bronze medals at the British Cheese Awards, prizes at the Nantwich International Cheese Show and Gold and Silver Medals at the World Cheese Awards.
John Bourne’s Cloth Bound Cheshire cheese is made with Vegetarian Rennet. Whether Cheshire Cheese is made with pasteurised or unpasteurised milk it is still suitable for pregnant ladies to eat, according to NHS guidelines.
if you are looking for historical recipes that uses John Bourne’s Cloth Bound Cheshire cheese and that have been made over the centuries on Cheshire farms, then look at; https://historyservices.webeden.co.uk/old-cheshire-recipes/4566017940
One of our favourites is also the simplest: Potted Cheshire Cheese by Mary Novak, it appears in her book Home Preserving. https://app.ckbk.com/recipe/thec56953c04s001ss001r017/potted-cheshire-cheese
The renowned chef Simon Rimmer, when interviewed by The Guardian newspaper, said of John Bourne’s Cheshire cheeses; “’John Bourne is a Cheshire cheesemaker and considered among the best in the world. What he can do with cheese is incredible; he’s a master craftsman.” http://clients.thisischeshire.co.uk/features/food_p5_3906.pdf. Simon has crafted a superb recipe: Apple and Cheshire Cheese Cobbler. https://www.recipearchive.co.uk/recipes-apple-and-cheshire-cheese-cobbler/
John Bourne’s Cloth Bound Cheshire cheese is best at room temperature. Remove from the fridge when you open your bottle of wine; thus allowing the temperature of the cheese to slowly rise.
When you have finished. resist the temptation to wrap the cheese in cling film or place in an airtight container. Cheese needs to breathe or it will sweat. So rewrap in the wax paper your cheesemonger used and place it in the crisper draw of your fridge. Cheese stored like this will keep for up to 14 days from the date it was cut by your cheesemonger. If some white blooming appears, it is totally natural, don’t be concerned, just remove it and enjoy the remainder of your John Bourne’s Cloth Bound Cheshire cheese.