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Cheshire was the most popular cheese on the market in the late eighteenth century. In 1758 the Royal Navy ordered that ships be stocked with Cheshire and Gloucester cheeses. By 1823, Cheshire cheese production was estimated at 10,000 tonnes per year.
Until the late 19th century, the different varieties of Cheshire Cheeses were aged to a sufficient level of hardness to withstand the rigours of transport (by horse and cart, and later by boat) to London for trading purposes. Younger, fresher, crumbly cheese that required shorter storage – similar to the Cheshire cheese of today - began to develop in popularity towards the end of the 19th century particularly in the industrial areas in the North and the Midlands. It was a cheaper cheese to make as it required less storage.
Sales of Cheshire peaked at around 40,000 tonnes in 1960 subsequently declining as the range of cheeses available in the UK grew considerably. Cheshire Cheese remains the UK’s largest selling crumbly cheese with sales of around 6,500 tonnes per year.
It is a dense and crumbly cheese with a very sharp flavour derived from the area's abundant deposits of salt. It comes in three varieties: white, red (which has been dyed with annatto), and blue-veined (also known as Shropshire blue cheese). The blue-veined variety, which was once considered undesirable, is caused by mould penetration during aging.
Cheshire cheese is considered by some to be a variety of Cheddar cheese, although cheshire cheese is not aged as long as most cheddars.
- List of British cheeses
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese - a historic pub in London, located in an alley off Fleet Street. The name has been mimicked by other similar businesses.