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What is Wensleydale Cheese?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2016
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Wensleydale cheese is a traditional British cheese which has been made since the 11th century, when French monks first started producing cheese in Wensleydale, a region of North Yorkshire. Originally made with sheep's milk, modern Wensleydale is a pasteurized cow's milk cheese which comes in several different varieties, from a creamy and mild fresh cheese to a tangy blue version. Cheese shops sometimes carry Wensleydale cheese, and it can also be ordered from companies which produce it.

The tradition of making Wensleydale cheese was almost lost in the town of Hawes, the historical stronghold of Wensleydale cheese, when the Hawes creamery was closed in 1992. Manufacture of Wensleydale cheese was shifted to another region of Yorkshire, but critics felt that the cheese simply wasn't the same. Thankfully, later that same year, a consortium of cheese fans banded together to re-open the Hawes creamery, which today produces a range of Wensleydale cheeses in the traditional way, employing members of the local community and selecting milk from 36 regional farms to make its cheeses. As of 2008, the Hawes creamery had applied for a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) label for their cheeses, with the goal of protecting the Wensleydale heritage, but no decision had been made.

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So-called “Real Yorkshire Wensleydale” is a fresh cheese, aged for no more than three weeks. It is a moist, crumbly cheese with a hint of a tangy flavor and a slightly honey-like taste. This cheese can also be aged for six months or more to produce mature Wensleydale cheese, which is a much drier, harder cheese. The fresh cheese is also cold-smoked to make smoked Wensleydale, which possesses a complex, smoky flavor which some consumers find enjoyable.

It is also possible to find blue Wensleydale cheese, which was once the more common form of this cheese. Blue Wensleydale is veined with streaks of blue mold, which give it an acidic, assertive flavor which deepens with age. The Hawes creamery also makes Wensleydale with various inclusions, ranging from pesto to cranberries, typically selling these versions as seasonal specials.

Wensleydale pairs very well with fruit, especially pears, and it goes well with sweet or dry white wines. Some people also enjoy the combination of fresh Wensleydale cheese smeared on whole-wheat bread, and the cheese may be used in a variety of other ways as well, depending on personal taste, from quiche to tarts.

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elizabeth23
Post 2

@helene55, I am also a fan of Wallace and Gromit; Wensleydale cheese is not one that I like either, though. I suppose after seeing even a fictional character who acts as though it is something holy, though, it's hard to accept that really you're just eating another kind of crumbly cheese.

helene55
Post 1

The popular clay animation series "Wallace and Gromit", set in northern England and created by Nick Park, is all about Wallace, an Englishman who absolutely adores any kind of cheese, and his deeply intelligent dog Gromit. One of his favorite cheeses is Wensleydale. My father, also an Englishman who loves cheese, went a long time without trying it again, and when he finally did, he was disappointed to realize he did not like the taste of it at all.

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