|Country of origin||England|
|Region||Wensleydale, North Yorkshire|
|Source of milk||Cows (formerly ewes)|
|Aging time||3–6 months|
|Certification||PGI 2013 (Yorkshire Wensleydale)|
|Related media on Wikimedia Commons|
Wensleydale is a style of cheese originally produced in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, England, but now mostly made in large commercial creameries throughout the UK. The term "Yorkshire Wensleydale" can only be used for cheese that is made in Wensleydale.
Flavour and texture
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. 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 until the Second World War, during which most milk in the country was used for the making of "Government Cheddar". Even after rationing ceased in 1954, cheese making did not return to pre-war levels.
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. Dairy Crest transferred production of Wensleydale cheese to Yorkshire's traditional rival, Lancashire. Six months later, in November 1992, following many rescue offers, 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.
The business moved to its current location in Hawes in 2015 and still handcrafts the eponymous cheese with a staff of 230. In 2017, the company made a £5 million investment in its dairy and cheese making facilities. In the financial year ending March 2017, the company sold 4,664 tonnes of cheese. The company estimated revenues of £27.5 million and pre-tax profits of around £1 million in their financial year ending in March 2018. Exports make up about 15% of the revenues and visits by tourists another 10%. The creamery has become a tourist attraction, visited by up to 300,000 people each year.
In January 2018, the company appointed David Salkeld as its new Chairman, replacing Matthew Gribbin who was with the Creamery for ten years.
Wensleydale Creamery has won many prestigious cheese awards, including Supreme Champion in 2018 for its new Yorkshire Cheddar at The Great Yorkshire Show's Cheese and Dairy Show. Yorkshire Wensleydale took the Reserve Supreme Cheese title. The company also received ten gold, four silver and four bronze awards and four Best of Category trophies. In 2017, the creamery had won 22 awards.
In mid 2019, an announcement indicated that cheese waste (primarily whey) from the Creamery, which makes 4,000 tonnes of cheese per year, would help heat 4,000 Yorkshire homes with renewable "green gas". The Leeming biogas plant will use anaerobic digestion to turn the waste into methane biogas which will be burned for conversion into electricity. (The plant was already using this process with dairy waste from an ice cream manufacturing facility.) Any whey residue remaining after the process will be spread in the area to improve the soil.
The main categories of cheese produced by the Wensleydale Creamery include:
- Yorkshire Cheddar
- Yorkshire Wensleydale
- Blended Cheese
- Waxed Truckles
- Blue Cheese
- Traditional English (Kit Calvert style)
- Smoked Cheese
- Sheep's Milk Cheese
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 is 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. Cold smoking typically involves lower temperatures in the smoking process. Winter Warmer is Wensleydale with mulled wine, cranberries and festive spices for the winter holidays.
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.
References in culture
In the popular 1962 novel "Hornblower and the Hotspur" (set in 1803) the title character makes "an epoch-making discovery, that Wensleydale cheese and port were a pair of heavenly twins" (ch. 9).
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', which caused some confusion between the two when the cheese was mentioned.
In the 1990s, sales of Wensleydale cheese had fallen so low that production in the last dairy in Wensleydale itself was at risk of being suspended. The popular Wallace and Gromit animated shorts A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, 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 the lip sync to rather than due to its origins in northern England where the shorts were set. He was also unaware of the financial difficulties that the company was experiencing. The company contacted Aardman Animations about a licence for a special brand of "Wallace and Gromit Wensleydale", which proved to be an enormous success. When the 2005 full-length Wallace and Gromit film, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, was released, sales of Wensleydale cheeses increased by 23%.
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I fancy Stilton is the best cheese of its type in the world, with Wensleydale not far behind.
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In 1992 the 100-year-old creamery was in danger of closing, along with the threat that virtually all Wensleydale Cheese production would move out of its traditional home
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