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Apley Cheshire Cheese Revived (16th September 2014)

Apley Cheshire Cheese Revived

Originally made for Britain's fifth wealthiest man, the Apley Cheese has been revived after 58 years. Award winning in its day, it was made for the owner of one of Shropshire’s oldest country estates. The recreation of the cheese is thanks to a collaboration between Lord Hamilton, Apley Estate owner, Martin Moyden - cheese maker, and Rosemary Keen, the last person still alive to have made the cheese.

The Apley Cheshire cheese was made between 1956 & 1965 on the site of what is now Apley Farm Shop. The herd of Dairy Shorthorn cows were milked twice daily in what is now Lottie’s [fashion] shop & the cheese was made in what is now The Creamery Café.

Mr Moyden explained “The first Apley cheese we’ve made, which is now nearly 3 months old, was cut open last week to be tasted & we are very happy to report that it tastes amazing. I am looking forward to inviting Rosemary to taste the new Apley cheese & see if she notices any differences & approves !”

He continued “We will of course tweak the recipe if it’s not quite how it should be, to develop it further, as we’re improving our recipes all the time. It’s still early days, though I am delighted it seems to already have a great flavour profile.”

The new Apley cheese wheels are roughly 3kg each (6.6lbs), nearly 7 times smaller than the original ones made by Rosemary, which weighed 45-50 lbs each.

Lord Hamilton said “The cheeses will have pride of place on our delicatessen counter in Apley Farm Shop & other outlets for £2.45 per 100g.”

Last year, Lord Hamilton, Mr Moyden & Mrs Keen met to discuss traditional techniques, which haven’t really changed much over the years.

Martin explained “We captured those traditional methods to deliver the cheese in a modern form.

Mr Moyden suggested “The longer customers store it, the more it matures, but we recommend buying whatever they expect to consume in a week, then returning to Apley Farm Shop get a fresh supply each week, to ensure the flavour is at its best.”

The 1956 Apley cheese was made using milk from Apley’s own herd of Dairy Shorthorn cows, but instead Martin uses unpasteurised raw milk from a single herd on a neighbouring Shropshire farm. Some are Montbéliarde cows whose milk is used for Comté cheese & some are British Friesian cows.

He explained “It’s very good quality milk. They use modern milking methods & their cows have a very high welfare, out at grass most of the year. They’re milked at 5.30am when I go to help & again at 4.30pm daily.

“It keeps the carbon footprint of our cheeses low & supports local farmers.”

Rosemary received her training from a Mr R A Cope in Cheshire & it’s quite possible that had she received it anywhere else, the Apley cheese she came home to produce may have been a different variety. Cheshire cheese was very popular in the 1950s & 1960s in the local area with local grocers & delicatessens. It was one of the most widely produced cheeses at the time, a bit like cheddar cheese is today, as Cheshire’s fertile land produces good grass & in turn, plentiful milk from the cows grazing there.

Early on in the development process, Martin struggled to find the right white plastic cheese moulds, which had to be cylindrical in shape, Cheshire style. He uses disposable local cheese cloths⁶, giving the production process a modern twist.

It’s very easy these days to put together an impressive Shropshire cheeseboard.

In the past 5 years, Shropshire has rapidly become a national hub of artisan cheeses, boasting nearly 30 cheeses made in the county. Apley is the latest to be added to that list. The list includes ‘The Cheese With No Name’, Croft Gold, Bromfield Priory, Remembered Hill Blue, Oakly Park Cheddar, Ludlow Blue, Lady Halton Smoked, Ludlow Ewe Log, Lockley Ewe, Caer Caradoc, Ironbridge Blue, Shrewsbury Blue, Wrekin Blue, Wrekin White, Newport, Newport 1665, Fresco Angelico, Pablo Cabrito, Cabra Nouveau, Jote de Chevre, Dutch Mistress & Mrs Appleby’s Cheshire.

All Martin’s work is by hand. He explained how he actually makes his cheeses: “I have a 4.30am start & get the milk in ready by 8.30am. We separate off the curd from the whey. The curd is the solids (fats & proteins) which have been extracted from the milk, leaving behind the whey which have been separated off.

We stir in the curd to get the right acidity after which I add the starter culture & rennet to the milk & a touch of salt which acts as a preservative during the maturation period, but also adds a touch of taste.

Next the curd is milled, which involves tearing it into matchbox sized small chunks & mixing a measured amount of fine sea salt into it which dissolves easily into the curd.

They continue the process until the curd goes into the moulds. It’s pressed (see photo) overnight using a traditional Dutch style, the weights squeezing out the last bits of whey. The following morning the cheeses are turned out from the moulds to be matured on seasoned pine wooden shelves seen in this photograph.

Martin’s skill, learned with years of experience, is to correctly judge when a cheese feels & smells right. Not many professions use touch & smell to such an extent.

When asked what makes one cheese unique from another, Martin explained is of course the flavours: “When making this Apley Cheese for example, we’re after a lactic, light, fresh flavour & the depth of that flavour always what’s most important. As it carries on ageing & maturing, the flavours will intensify.”

Rosemary Keen, still living locally, described the manufacturing process to Lord Hamilton: “XXX. After only 9 months of production, we entered for the National Dairy Show cheese competition & were delighted to win second prize !”

Mr Moyden explained “There are only really 3 main differences in the manufacturing process of the Apley cheese when Rosemary Keen was making it in 1950s & 1960s & now: We now make much smaller cheeses, we are using milk from Montbéliarde & British Friesian cows & thirdly, we no longer wrap the cheeses whilst they mature. So in theory, the cheese should taste pretty similar to when it was first made 58 years ago !”

For more details visit www.ApleyFarmShop.co.uk or call 01952 730 345 or Mr Moyden on 01630 639796.

Picture Credit: Peter Flemmich, Express & Star photographer