Extinct territorial cheese resurrected from over 100 years ago

shropshire cheese

Our Dairy Manager, Dudley Martin has spent the past two years piecing together clues and titbits of information, like a historical jigsaw puzzle, to resurrect an extinct cheese, known as ‘Shropshire’.

Dudley has a passion for classic British territorial cheeses and his inspiration for his latest cheese came from a single historical piece of information regarding an old dairy in Ludlow and the long since forgotten Shropshire cheese it once produced. Having sifted through historical records, every document from 1562 to 1912, told us something about Shropshire cheese. The key was getting to grips with the fundamentals of this historic cheese – its size, methods of production and how long was it matured, with the aim of producing a cheese that is an authentic interpretation of the original.

Dudley was unable to find a definitive recipe for Shropshire cheese, so he looked at known similarities to Cheshire cheese - how it was made in the past and how it evolved. Records gave indications as to the size of Shropshire cheese and we knew that it would have fermented naturally as a result of the raw milk microflora - there were no starter cultures in the 18th century! Before attempting the first vat of Shropshire Cheese, 9 months was spent carefully culturing and re-culturing his own natural starter that would allow the cheese to be a truer replication of the original. Dudley has made two seasonal variants - Winter and Summer, using the natural colourants, carrot juice and marigold, which were commonly used in the period 1750 - 1800 when Shropshire cheese was in its heyday.

The Shropshire Cheese is crumbly in texture, its closest cousin was the long-ripened Cheshire (itself extinct) which was rich, buttery, soft and crumbly. A more contemporary comparison is a tasty Lancashire although the Shropshire is gentler and subtler. Dudley hopes that Shropshire cheese can find its niche within the wider group of crumblies, whilst displaying a richness and old-fashioned character all of its own.

Jon Edwards, our Managing Director said: “I am extremely proud of Dudley and the dairy team for their hard work, huge effort and determination in bringing back to life a big part of this county’s wonderful cheese heritage, the Shropshire cheese.”

Dudley Martin, our Dairy Manager said: “Many people have asked me why I have decided to resurrect Shropshire…I think curiosity is the most important attribute of a cheesemaker! Curiosity led me here, and a little pride too. I am very proud of this region, and its food, so when we discovered Shropshire had its own forgotten cheese variety with a 350-year history, we were keen to learn as much about it as we could, to see if it would be possible to recreate this food from the past. I have discovered some fascinating stuff along the way, and the process has taught me so much about British cheesemaking history.”

Shropshire cheese is now available to purchase exclusively from our dairy counter following its official launch as the Winter variant has been matured for 10 months and is ready for everyone to enjoy.

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