WHAT IS WENSLEYDALE?
This cheese was brought to England in the 1100s by French monks from Normandy. While they were used to working with sheep’s milk, England then (and even now) didn’t have many sheep. So they switched to cow’s milk in the 14th century. Similar to Caerphilly, Wensleydale is a flaky, crumbly cheese. It is sometimes used as a cheaper alternative to white Stilton in additive (fruit flavored) recipes. The traditional version is hand wrapped in cheesecloth (muslin) and comes in several ages of maturity (from 1 to 4 months depending). Most production today is industrial using pasteurized milk. More traditional versions that are oak smoked or use blue mold also exist.
WHERE IS WENSLEYDALE MADE?
Initially in Wensleydale, England but now commercial producers all over the U.K. make it for large chain stores. The area of Wensleydale is known for its’ limestone. This influenced the milk and helped give the cheese its’ tangy flavor (along with how it is made).
AUTHOR GEORGE ORWELL PAVED THE WAY FOR CHEF GORDON RAMSEY ?
In 1945 George Orwell (author of Animal Farm) published an essay in a local paper defending English cuisine. The irony of the article’s timing (World War II had just ended, people had been struggling to find food throughout war-torn Europe for years) is misleading. If there was ever a time for mainland Europeans to appreciate English cuisine, it was when they were starving to death. Orwell justifiably cites Stilton and Wensleydale as examples of British culinary supremacy. To his defense, he makes an excellent point about British restaurants. So many of them were poorly trying to emulate French cuisine. So the tasty crown jewels of British Food never got a chance to shine on local menus.
WHAT CAN I PAIR THIS CHEESE WITH?
White wines like Pinot Grigio or sparkling beverages such as champagne will work. The more mature the cheese, the more of a tang its’ flavor develops. When pairing to the blue or smoked versions, go with the same pairings that Stilton or Idiazabal use. Fruits like cranberries pair well. For U.K. cheese flights, stay away from White Stilton or Caerphilly, and look more towards Blacksticks Blue and a nice cloth bound cheddar. If using Blacksticks though for your cheese plate, steer clear of Red Leicester. Both cheeses use the same annatto dye and you lose the color contrast of your cheese plate presentation.