Wensleydale is a cheese essentially produced in the town of Hawes, North Yorkshire, England. The name of the cheese is derived from the town it is produced in. The hard cheese is made from cow's milk and depending upon the variety being consumed, the tastes and textures vary. Mostly, however, the cheese has a unique flavor for which it is renowned everywhere. The best quality has a texture which is supple, crumbly and kind of moist. It is akin to a Young Caerphilly. The flavor is more like wild honey and is well balanced with a fresh acidity. Wensleydale Creamery is the producer of the cheese which is aged for about 3 to 6 months before it can be served and consumed.
Origin of Wensleydale Cheese
The origin of the cheese has been traced back to 11th century which saw its first making by French Cistercian monks hailing from the Roquefort region, who had settled down in the North Yorkshire town. First the monks built a monastery at Fors but they later moved to Jervaulax and took with them a recipe for making cheese from sheep's milk. Cow's milk was used for the first time in the 14th century and for about 100 years now, the Wensleydale Creamery has been handcrafting the cheese with time-honored traditional recipes.
Over the years, the cheese has evolved and there are various varieties today, right from the traditional one to more innovative and newer versions.
Culinary Uses of Wensleydale Cheese
Mostly used as a table cheese, it is also a popular accompaniment to various desserts. While it can be used in almost all preparations, the flavor of the cheese is suited mostly to combination with sweeter produce, like fruits. A popular and widely consumed combination served in various restaurants is the cheese containing cranberries. Across Yorkshire and North East England, Wensleydale is often eaten with fruit cake or Christmas cake.
Wensleydale Cheese Recipe- Types and Varieties
In addition to the traditional version of the cheese, which is mostly shaped into various molds of sizes ranging from a small flat disc called a truckle to several larger cheeses, there are 4 more varieties prevalent:
Mature: This is a harder, more highly-flavored variant.
Extra Mature: This is the strongest version of the cheese in terms of flavor.
Blue-Veined: This variety of the cheese has blue veins and is produced in a wide range of sizes. While this variant is also highly flavored, it is less salty than the traditional British blue Stilton.
Oak Smoked: This cheese is cold smoked to produce a variant with a special and unique tang and texture.
Nutritive Value of Wensleydale Cheese
With a 45% fat content, the cheese is not categorized as a healthy food and its consumption must be limited and controlled, especially for people who are obese and/or suffering from health troubles like heart disease, hypertension or high cholesterol levels. Consumption of the cheese is, however, never completely discouraged.
In the 1990s, the sale of the cheese had dropped so low that production was almost stopped. This is when Wallance and Gromit animated short films 'A Grand Day Out' and 'A Close Shave' saved the cheese. The main character Wallace, a cheese connoisseur, mentioned the cheese as a favorite variety.
Currently, the main production unit of the Wensleydale is seeking to protect the name 'Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese' under a submission for Protected Designation of Origin.