The Appleby family have been farming at Hawkstone Abbey Farm, North Shropshire since 1942, when Lance and Lucy Appleby bought the farm. Lucy began making Cheshire cheese in 1952. The daughter and granddaughter of cheesemakers, she remained active in the dairy throughout her life. In 1982, Mr and Mrs Appleby, along with their son Edward and his wife Christine, refused to give in to pressure from supermarkets to begin waxing their cheeses.
The family began selling cheese to Neal’s Yard Dairy, who appreciated that the texture and flavour of the clothbound cheese are more important than the ease of cutting on a production line and reduced weight loss that result from coating cheese in wax. When we are lucky, a bit of blue, known by our cheesemongers as Green Fade, appears as the cheeses age, caused by air making its way through the cloth into the cheese. All of the cheeses that we buy are coloured light red with a natural food dye, annatto, although the Appleby’s do make a handful of white cheeses which they typically sell in local markets in the north. We generally sell the cheeses at around four months old.
Now the third generation, Paul and Sarah, have come into the business. Sarah recently began making hand churned whey butter, much like Lucy once did. They work closely with Paul’s parents and cheesemaker Garry Gray to ensure the continued production of exceptional Cheshire.
It can sometimes be hard to know how much cheese to buy. If you are at all unsure please give us a call for some advice. As a general rule of thumb, we would recommend roughly between 100 and 150 grams per person for after dinner, and a bit more if cheese is the focus of the meal.
If you are buying cheese to serve over a couple of days or as part of a buffet, it is advisable to buy a few larger pieces. This will both look better and keep better than many small bits.
To help visualise weights, a good tip is to consider that a regular supermarket pat of butter weighs between 200 and 250 grams.
Farmhouse cheese is handmade and thus varies with each day’s production and changes as it matures. As such it is necessary to apply a common sense approach to cheese care and respond to the cheese you have in front of you, as opposed to following rigid guidelines. Here are some pointers which will help you to ensure you eat your cheese at its best.
We sell our cheese wrapped in waxed cheese paper, which achieves the best possible balance between maintaining humidity around the cheese and allowing it to breathe. We are happy to provide some extra cheese paper, you can add some to your basket by visiting “accompaniments“. If you wrap your cheese in cling film or foil, it can cause the cheese to sweat which will negatively affect the flavour.
Cut pieces of cheese should be kept in the refrigerator to slow the growth of mould on their cut surfaces. However, it is important to be aware that refrigerated cheese is more likely to dry out, particularly if it is not wrapped. The best option is to keep the cheese wrapped in its waxed paper within a box in the fridge. The container will help to prevent the cheese from drying out and prevent the cheese from absorbing flavours.
It is very important not to serve your cheese when it’s too cold as cold cheese can taste bland and inert. As a general rule of thumb you should bring it out of the fridge a few hours before you plan to serve it. You should keep your cheese wrapped whilst it is coming up to room temperature, to avoid any risk of it drying out. If it is especially warm you should reduce the amount of time the cheese is out of the fridge accordingly.