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Wensleydale (cheese)


Wensleydale (cheese)

Country of origin England
Region, town Wensleydale
North Yorkshire
Source of milk Cows or ewes
Pasteurised Yes
Texture Medium, crumbly
Aging time 3–6 months
Certification PDO (pending)

Wensleydale is a cheese produced in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, England.

Flavour and texture

Good Wensleydale has a supple, crumbly, moist texture and resembles a young Caerphilly. The flavour suggests wild honey balanced with fresh acidity.[1][2]


Wensleydale cheese was first made by French Cistercian monks from the Roquefort region, who had settled in Wensleydale. They built a monastery at Fors, but some years later the monks moved to Jervaulx in Lower Wensleydale. They brought with them a recipe for making cheese from sheep's milk.[3] During the 14th century cows' milk began to be used instead, and the character of the cheese began to change. A little ewes' milk was still mixed in since it gave a more open texture, and allowed the development of the blue mould. At that time, Wensleydale was almost always blue with the white variety almost unknown. Nowadays, the opposite is true, with blue Wensleydale rarely seen. When the monastery was dissolved in 1540 the local farmers continued making the cheese right up until the Second World War, during which most milk in the country was used for the making of "Government Cheddar".[4] Even after rationing ceased in 1954, cheese making did not return to pre-war levels.[5]

Wensleydale Creamery

Wensleydale Creamery in the town of Hawes has been hand-making cheese for more than 100 years.

In May 1992, Dairy Crest, a subsidiary of the Milk Marketing Board, closed the Hawes creamery with the loss of 59 jobs. This was the last creamery in the dale. Dairy Crest transferred production of Wensleydale cheese to Yorkshire's traditional rival, Lancashire.

Six months later, in November 1992, following many offers to rescue the Creamery, a management buyout took place, led by local businessman John Gibson and the management team. With the help of eleven members of the former workforce, cheese making recommenced in Wensleydale.[6] It now employs 190 locals and buys from 36 farms located in Wensleydale.

There are several main types of cheese in the range produced by the Wensleydale Creamery:

  • Real Yorkshire Wensleydale is usually shaped in a variety of weight moulds ranging in size from a small flat disc known as a "truckle" that is highly pressed and preserved in wax, to several larger cheeses—it is a mild cheese with an acidic, honeyed flavour
  • Mature Wensleydale is a harder, more highly-flavoured version of the Real Yorkshire Wensleydale
  • Extra Mature Wensleydale the strongest Wensleydale cheese, matured for nine months
  • Blue Wensleydale has blue veins and is produced in range of sizes. It is highly flavoured but less salty than the classic British blue Stilton
  • Oak Smoked Wensleydale is cold smoked to produce a cheese with a special tang and texture

Wensleydale Dairy Products is looking to protect the name Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese under a submission for Protected designation of origin.[7][8]

Common flavour combinations

The flavour of Wensleydale is suited to combination with sweeter produce, such as fruit. A popular combination available in many restaurants and delicatessens is Wensleydale containing cranberries.

In Yorkshire, apple pie may be accompanied by white Wensleydale, giving rise to the saying 'an apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze'.

In Yorkshire and North East England it is often eaten with fruit cake or Christmas cake.

References in culture

The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer

In the Series 2, episode 6 of The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer the introductory sequence tells the tale of a German hair metal band called Wensleydale Cheese whose obsolete jet malfunctioned and crashed an hour's flight out of Halifax Stanfield International Airport. The only survivors were guitarists Ralf and Karl Haussmann, subsequently driven to cannibalism of their backup singers in the hostile wilderness.

George Orwell

In his essay 'In Defence of English Cooking', George Orwell rates Wensleydale as second only to Stilton among British cheese varieties.

Monty Python

Wensleydale was one of the cheeses named by John Cleese in the Monty Python sketch "The Cheese Shop", which originally appeared in a 1972 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. In addition the shop owner, played by Michael Palin, was named Henry Wensleydale.

Wallace and Gromit

In the 1990s, sales of Wensleydale cheese had fallen so low that production was at risk of being suspended.[9] However, the popular Wallace and Gromit animated shorts A Grand Day Out and A Close Shave had the main character Wallace, a cheese connoisseur, mention Wensleydale as a particularly favourite cheese. Animator Nick Park chose it solely because it had a good name that would be interesting to animate rather than due to its origins in northern England where the shorts were set. He was also unaware of the company's financial difficulties.[10] The company contacted Aardman Animations about a licence for a special brand of "Wallace and Gromit Wensleydale", which proved to be an enormous success.[11] When the 2005 full-length Wallace and Gromit film, Curse of the Were-Rabbit, was released, sales of Wensleydale cheeses jumped by 23%.[12][13]

Pinky and the Brain: "Cheese Roll Call"

In Series 1, Episode 8, aired 1 October 1995, Pinky (an anthropomorphic mouse) sings about his favourite thing, cheese. During the "Cheese Roll Call", only three of a vast army of cheeses introduce themselves. One of them is Wensleydale, which describes itself as "Lightly pressed and smooth textured, with a subtle milky flavour that is clean and refreshing."

See also


External links

  • Wensleydale Creamery

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