Today I have centred this informative post around Rachel from Abingdon, Rachel commented on my blog and said that she is training to become a Waitrose Cheese Specialist as well. After a few comments I said that I would try and find out some cheesy information for Abingdon, UK and the surrounding areas.
I hope that this helps Rachel!
Abingdon also known as Abingdon on Thames or Abingdon-on-Thame. Abingdon is a market town and civil parish in England, which historically it was the county town of Berkshire. Abingdon is one of several places that claim to be Britain’s oldest continuously occupied town with people having lived there for at least 6,000 years. Although not really known for anything cheesy its next door neighbour is Gloucester where we start our cheesy info. Only an 1-2 hours away from Abingdon is Gloucester the home of Double/ Single Gloucester cheese although it was originally made in the Severn Vale was from Cotswold Sheep milk. There was so much cheese being made as far back as1498 in Gloucester that a permanent market was set up in Eastgate Street in the City, which even to this day is still being used as an indoor market.
By the time the Tudor’s arrived cows milk was the norm across the Vale of Berkeley and down to Bristol. The milk mainly came from Old Gloucester cows because the small fat globules made a fine even textured cheese. In 1745 cattle plague had depleted almost all of the breed so they replaced it with the Longhorn breed, and once re-stocked, farms began to supply more liquid milk into London. In 1789 Gloucester cheese was being produced at an estimated 1,000 tonnes. Unfortunately production hit an all time low in the 19th century due to low priced imports and the easier profit made by selling fresh milk. Today there are only a handful of Single Gloucester producers but they are outnumbered by Double Gloucester producers.
Would you like Double or Single?
There are various stories on how the two cheeses differ and there are many differences to be had: The double skimming of milk from Gloucester cows (cream rose slowly therefore had to be done twice), Varying size of cheese, Double had cream added taken from the morning’ milk and added to the evening milk for making.
Now for the best explanation I turn to the British Cheese Board for their overview:
“Single Gloucester used to be made from the partially skimmed milk remaining and as such was made smaller than the standard 20 inch wide and 5 inches high Double Gloucester. Singles were typically the same diameter but about half the height. Maybe it is a combination of these factors and clearly demonstrated the difference between the two – by size and flavour. Whereas the Double Gloucester was a prized cheese comparable in quality to the best Cheddar or Cheshire, and was exported out of the County, Single Gloucester tended to be consumed within the County.
There are still a few makers producing Single Gloucester – Charles Martell, Smart’s, Godsell’s Church Farm and Wick Court Cheese – all in the County – all of whom also make Double Gloucester. This Single Gloucester is an EU PDO and is made from whole milk and probably bears little resemblance to the Single Gloucester described above. According to the specification it is a flat, disc shaped, hard cheese of natural colour made from cows milk in the County of Gloucestershire and producers of the cheese must have a registered herd of Gloucester cows the milk from which is used to make the cheese.
The cheese is still made in the traditional shape using the traditional method and skills. After the addition of starter culture and rennet to the milk, the curds are cut and scalded at a temperature of 32-35°C with the whey for 20-30 minutes. The whey is then drained away leaving the curd which is milled and salted. The cheese is then moulded and mechanically pressed for up to 5 days and is ready for consumption at around 2 months. Single Gloucester was sometimes known as the haymaker’s cheese; as it was matured for a short time it was ready for eating by farm labourers during the haymaking season.
Double Gloucester cheese is made in many parts of the UK both on farms and in large dairies. It has a characteristic light orange hue given by the addition of annatto to the milk. This has been a traditional characteristic of the cheese since the 16th century when producers of inferior cheese used a colouring agent to replicate the orange hue achieved by the best cheesemakers who were probably making the cheese from the morning’s milking to which was added the separated cream of the previous evening’s milking. During the summer months the high levels of carotene in the grass would have given the milk an orangey colour which was carried through into the cheese. This orange hue was regarded as an indicator of the best cheese and that is why the custom of adding annatto spread to other parts of the UK with Cheshire and Red Leicester cheese as well as Coloured Cheddar made in Scotland all using this natural dye.Double Gloucester is made in traditional wheels with a natural rind on some farms whilst in larger dairies it would be made in 20 kg blocks which make the cheese ideal for pre-packing. Flavour levels depend on the age of the cheese. As it matures Double Gloucester becomes very hard and this may be one of the reasons why it is associated with the annual cheese rolling event at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester. It is said that buyers of Double and Single Gloucester would often jump up and down on the cheese to assess its grade and suitability.Most Double Gloucester is sold at about 4 months of age and has a firm close texture and a clean mellow, creamy or buttery flavour. Older cheeses will develop more complex and nutty flavours.The farm made cheeses tend to be kept a little longer adding to their flavour and where the cheese is cloth bound they are significantly harder and drier than their creamery counterparts and generally more expensive.”
The last thing about Glouscester cheese is that its a dying cheese breed according to this article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2730022/Double-Gloucester-cheese-disappear-supermarket-shelves-cows-produce-dying-EU-regulations.html. (This is handy for you media section Rachel 😉 ) While on the subject of media it was announced that Kim Jong-un’s love of Emmental is causing him to have a weight issue but wouldn’t we all if we ate lots of cheese? (http://metro.co.uk/2014/10/01/for-the-love-of-emmental-cheese-a-look-at-north-korean-leader-kim-jong-uns-love-to-cheese-in-pictures-4888824/).
Now I hope that has educated you in Glouscester cheeses and now I move to a cheese maker from Worcester called Lightwood cheese they are only again a maximum of two hours away from Abingdon but produce cheese that isn’t available in supermarkets so makes them sort after & unique. They produce six cheeses overall Elgar Mature, Lightwood Smoked, Little Urn, Chaser, Capria and Worcester Blue all available to buy from here http://www.lightwoodcheese.com/products/. I have two reviews on their cheese on jhbcheesy1.com just search for Lightwood and they will pop up! They are an unusual cheese producer but create some really lovely cheese.
If there are any more cheeses you need then just follow to the West Country where there is no shortage in lovely artisan cheeses and I hope this is given you a little help with your workbook. If you have any questions just comment below and I will try and help.
Wishing You All The Best Rachel!