Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cheshire Cheese at Sea.

Today, July 10th ...

Henry Teonge, was a chaplain in the Royal Navy in the seventeenth century, and served aboard his Majesty’s ships Assistance, Bristol, and Royal Oak. He wrote in his diary on this day in 1675:

“Wee are past the Rock of Lysbon … This day our noble Capt. Feasted the officers of his small squadron with 4 dishes of meate, viz. 4 excellent henns and a piece of porke boyled, in a dish; a giggett of excellent mutton and turnips; a piece of beife of 8 ribbs, well seasoned and roasted; a couple of very fatt geese; last of all, a great Cheshyre cheese…”

Cheshire cheese appears to be Britain’s oldest named cheese, and it is mentioned in the Domesday Book at the end of the 11th Century. The name originally referred to any cheese made in that part of the country, and it covered a wide range of cheese styles, from the fresh and crumbly to the aged, harder variety. It had a special association with the Royal Navy, which purchased great quantities for provisioning ships for long voyages. Perhaps it was the sheer volume of cheese produced in Cheshire (and also Gloucester) that ensured they were the only cheeses bought by the Navy in the eighteenth century. Currently about 6,500 tonnes are made annually, and it is one of the U.K.’s most popular crumbly cheeses.

The author of European Agriculture and Rural Economy, a Henry Colman, got some instructions for the making of a fine Cheshire Cheese from a dairy wife in 1851. He reproduced them ‘verbatim and in full’ in his book.

Cheshire Cheese: “Take thirty gallons of new milk to make a good-sized cheese, and then put the rennet into the milk. When come into curd, break it very small; then bring it together into one side of the tub; then dip the whey from it, and put it into the cheese, with a cloth inside of the vat, and put it under the press one hour; then take it out and break it up very small, and warm a small quantity of whey and pour over the curd, and stir it around; then take the whey from it, and put the curd into the vat again, and squeeze it well with the hand. When putting it in the vat the last way, take a small quantity of salt, and put it into the middle of the cheese, and put it under the press. Apply dry cloths to it several times, and salt it every twelve hours four tiimes. A little flour is a very good thing to put in the middle of the cheese with the salt – about one tablespoonful.”
What the use of the flour is in this case, it would be difficult to say. It may be like the horse-shoe upon the door-post. But I chose to give her directions verbatim and in full. Her cheese is of the best quality, and her dairy-room a model of neatness and order.

Here are a couple of ideas for your ‘Leftover Cheese’ recipe folder:

For potting Cheshire Cheese.
Put three Pounds of Cheshire Cheese into a Mortar, then take a Pound of the best fresh Butter you can get; pound them together, and in the beating add a Glass or two of Canary, and half an Ounce of Mace, so finely beat and sifted that it cannot be discered. When all is well mixed, press it hard down into a Pan, cover it with melted Butter, and keep it cool.
A Slice of this upon Bread eats very fine.
[The complete English cook; or, prudent housewife; Catharine Brooks; 1770?]

To make a Cheshire Cheese Soop.
Put the Crumb of a Penny-loaf into three Pints of Water, boil it, and grate half a Pound of old Cheshire, put it into the Bread and boil it.
[Professed cookery:…. Ann Cook; 1760?]
Tomorrow’s Story …

Portrait of a Gardener.

Quotation for the Day …

People who know nothing about cheeses reel away from Camembert, Roquefort, and Stilton because the plebeian proboscis is not equipped to differentiate between the sordid and the sublime. Harvey Day.


Anonymous said...

Wow -- without even knowing what it's supposed to turn out like, I think that potted Cheshire cheese sounds great. And I imagine that a slice of it would indeed eat well. I'm guessing Canary is Canary wine, which shows up in a lot of syllabub recipes. Would that be what you'd expect?

As for the soup, I like the idea better than the offered recipe, because cheese soup is a favorite dish of mine. My two favorites are cheddar, which would not be too dissimilar to Cheshire, and Stilton -- specifically the Stilton soup at Rules in London. Any chance you have a recipe for that?

And the comments on Naval dining makes me wonder if you've run across Lobscouse and Spotted Dog. It's a cookbook that was created to accompany the Patrick O'Brian novels about the British Navy. Some fun reading for those of us who fancy food history.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Cynthia: I like just about anything with cheese in it. I do have a recipe for Stilton soup somewhere - although I dont know how close it is to Rules'. I ate there a few years ago when I was in England and I'll be back there in 6 weeks, so maybe I'll go there again. I'll find that soup recipe. I havent made it for ages and it is winter here now ....

Anonymous said...

Do you know the ladies from the Food Museum in London? It's still just a theoretical museum, but they're quite lovely people. Liz Calvert Smith is the one I've been in contact with most recently. She does some wonderful historical food recreations, and seems to be someone you'd have great fun sharing stories with.