When I was in the UK recently, I enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with some of my favourite cheeses and meeting and befriending some new and different varieties. One of the old favourites I did not get to sample again (too many cheeses, not enough time … ) was Cheshire cheese.
Cheshire cheese is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, recorded named cheeses in British history. It was mentioned by Thomas Muffet in his work ‘Health's Improvement’, written about 1580. William Camden’s great work ‘Britannia’ (published, in Latin, in 1586) mentions it: the 1616 translation notes that ‘Cheshire Cheese is more agreeable and better relished than those of other parts of the kingdom,’ and the 1637 edition perhaps explains its popularity: ‘... the grasse and fodder there [in Cheshire] is of that goodness and vertue that the cheeses bee made heere in great number of a most pleasing and delicate taste, such as all England againe affordeth not the like; no, though the best dairy women otherwise and skilfullest in cheesemaking be had from hence.’
Another of the virtues of Cheshire cheese was that the harder varieties had a very long shelf-life, which meant that it was ideal for provisioning ships for long voyages. This particular aspect of the history of Cheshire cheese was the subject of a previous story, here.
Today I give you several ways to use up your Cheshire cheese bits and pieces:
To Pot Cheshire Cheese
Take three pounds of Cheshire cheese, and put it into a mortar, with half a pound of the best fresh butter you can get, pound them together, and in the beating add a gill of rich Canary wine, and half an ounce of mace finely beat, then sifted like a fine powder. When all is extremely well mixed, press it hard down into a gallipot, cover it with clarified butter, and keep it cool. A slice of this exceeds all the cream cheese that can be made.
The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1774), Hannah Glasse
A Ramaquin of Cheese.
Beat a quarter of a pound of Gloucester, and the same quantity of Cheshire cheese; mix in two ounces of butter, half the crumb of a penny loaf soaked in cream, four yolks of cast eggs and one of the whites. Put it in a dish, and bake it in a moderate oven. Potted Cheese. Beat three pounds of Cheshire cheese in a mortar, with half a pound of butter; a large glass of sack, and about half an ounce of mace beaten and sifted. Mix it well, pot it up, and pour larified butter over it.
The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, and Confectionary (1820), Mrs. Frazer
Cheese Omelet or Pudding.
Grate four ounces of Cheshire cheese, mix it with two eggs well beaten, one ounce of fresh butter, and a cup of cream or milk. Bake it, and serve hot, with hot toast.
Cookery and Domestic Economy (1862), Mary Somerville.
A Cheshire Sandwich.
Take anchovies, Cheshire cheese, and butter, of each equal parts. Made mustard to the taste. Pound in a marble mortar till all the ingredients become well incorporated. Spread a knife pointful of this upon slices of white bread, and between two pieces put a thin slice of ham, or any kind of cold meat. Press together, and with a sharp knife divide the sandwich into mouthfuls.
Culina Famulatrix Medicinæ: Or, Receipts in Modern Cookery, with a Medical Commentary (1806)' Alexander Hunter.
Quotation for the Day.
I will make an end of my dinner; there's pippins and cheese to come.