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Wensleydale cheese

Wensleydale cheese is a hard cheese produced in Wensleydale[?], Yorkshire. There are two types. White Wensleydale is usually shaped into a flat disc that is highly pressed and has a honey flavour to it. Blue Wensleydale, has blue veins and comes in large drums.

Wensleydale cheese was first made by French Cistercian monks from the Roquefort region settled in Wensleydale[?], Yorkshire. They built a monastery at Fors, but some years later the monks moved to Jervaulx in Lower Wensleydale. They brought with them a recipe for making cheese from ewes' milk. During the 1300's cows' milk began to be used instead of ewes' and the character of the cheese began to change. A little ewes' milk was still mixed in since it gave a more open texture and allowed the development of the blue mould. At that time Wensleydale was almost always blue with the white 'un-blue' variety almost unknown. Nowadays, the opposite is true, with blue Wensleydale rarely seen. When the monastery was dissolved in 1540 the local farmers and their wives continued making the cheese right up until the Second World War, during which the majority of milk was used for the making of 'Government Cheddar'. Even after rationing ceased in 1954 cheese making did not resume to the levels before the war. In the 1990s, sales had fallen so low that production was risk of being suspended. Fortunately, inspiration struck when the popular Wallace and Gromit short, A Close Shave, had Wallace mention Wensleydale as a particular favourite cheese of his. The company contacted Aardman Animations for a license for a special brand of Wallace and Gromit Wensleydale cheese, which proved to be an enormous success.

The Wensleydale pastures give the cheese the unique, refreshing flavour for which it is renowned. Good Wensleydale has a supple, crumbly, moist texture and resembles a young Caerphilly[?]. The flavour suggests wild honey balanced with a fresh acidity. It matures in two to four months and has a fat content of 45 %. Wensleydale is suitable for vegetarians.

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