Year of Cheshire at Neal's Yard Dairy

In March this year we decided to embark on a ‘Year of Cheshire’. Many people may be surprised to hear this, as the public face of our year-long focus is only just beginning to show.

In many companies, this type of focus would involve a series of promotions, in-shop merchandising, and a constant stream of social media posts aimed at selling more Cheshire. Certainly, we do wish to increase our sales of Cheshire cheese – that is always our goal because more sales of Cheshire are good for us, the cheesemaker, and for the British cheese industry as a whole. But the plan for the Year of Cheshire is more nuanced and longer-term than simple one-off targets.

A brief look at Cheshire’s history illustrates that a long term, holistic strategy is required if we are to encourage a turnaround in the fortune of Cheshire cheese. Cheshire cheese, as you will find out in three upcoming blog posts, has a boom and bust history.

The long decline in Cheshire cheese sales from its place of dominance in the 17th century is comprehensive: declines in sales, production and concomitant declines in status, knowledge and understanding. Our Year of Cheshire focuses our attention on reversing those trends. Since March, we have been engaged in many back-of-house Cheshire projects: researching the history of Cheshire production, including changing trends and specifics of the make.

We’ve made experimental batches of early-ripening and long-keeping cheese, and have been engaged in a maturation trial of Appleby’s Cheshire in our Covent Garden Shop, the results of which we will make public at the Borough Evening of Cheese in December. October, however, is the focal point of our public celebration of Cheshire cheese.

We opened Cheshire Month with two events aimed at training cheesemongers, our own and from other companies. Over the course of the month our shops, mail order, tastings, and wholesale teams will highlight Appleby’s Cheshire, with specific batches selected for sale. We will host the MilkJam CheshireSlam, in which mongers will make and mature their own Cheshire cheeses.

All of these endeavours, back of house and public, are intended to allow us to develop public appreciation for a cheese that is central to the history of farmhouse cheese production in Great Britain but poorly understood today.