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Appleby’s Farmhouse Cheshire and Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon

Appleby’s Farmhouse Cheshire and Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon
A beautiful bit of British comfort food
to cook up at home!

A beautiful bit of British comfort food
to cook up at home!

I learned about this wonderful bit of British comfort food from David Lockwood, one-time Deli staff member, now long-time partner at Neal’s Yard Dairy (NYD) in London—through whom we get these wondrous wheels—selected specifically for us. David was so enthused that I couldn’t ignore his advice, and, as usual, he was right on. This combination is terrific!

This simple but delicious dish all begins with the exceptionally excellent Appleby’s Farmhouse Cheshire. The Deli just cut into a particularly tasty new wheel, specially selected for us by David and the NYD crew—which is why it’s been on my mind of late. It’s been nearly three decades now that we’ve been selling the Appleby family’s very fine farmhouse Cheshire cheese at the Deli. I first visited Abbey Farm at Hawkstone—about halfway between Birmingham and Liverpool—where Lucy Appleby was making her now-famous raw milk, traditional Cheshire, sometime in the late ’80s.

Best I can remember, I kind of just showed up at their centuries-old farmhouse. Remember back then there was no email, no cell phones, no websites. Just books, paper maps, and word of mouth! I had read about them in the writings of artisan cheese supporter Major Patrick Rance and was eager to experience the Cheshire in its home. Mrs. Appleby, already in her late ’60s at the time, invited me in to watch the cheesemaking, and then later that day to sit in the kitchen for tea, a bit of talking, and of course, some cheese tasting. The Cheshire she was making—true to what had been crafted in the county for so many centuries—was exceptional. It was then, and remains now, one of a kind, little known or understood outside of a handful of folks in the know.

For context, at the time I knocked on the Appleby’s door, there was almost no British farmhouse cheese available in the U.S. And, in fact, truly traditional cheese was on the verge of going extinct in the U.K. Cheshire had once been the most popular cheese in England—150 years ago there were thousands of makers in the area. Sadly, though, as our friends at Neal’s Yard Dairy share: “By the end of the war, only 44 farmhouse Cheshire cheesemakers remained. In view of such challenging market conditions, the story of the Appleby family is quite remarkable.”

In the context of what I wrote above, it’s clear that the Appleby family have repeatedly chosen hope, countless times, over all the many years they’ve been doing this. I can only imagine how difficult it was to continue to do the hard work to craft a difficult-to-make artisan cheese when literally everyone else was going in the opposite direction—it was nearly impossible to find retailers who would stock it or places and people who were willing to pay much more to get this handcrafted traditional version of one of Britain’s oldest cheeses. Every time I eat a bit I’m deeply grateful that they did.

The quote above from Historian Yuval Noah Harari’s statement, “Choices change history” is just as true in the cheese world as anywhere else. In this case, one person’s decision to choose hope, at a time when the artisan food world was at a historical low point, played an important part in helping the Appleby’s to do what they have done. Major Patrick Rance ran a small cheese shop in Streatley-on-Thames and became a passionate campaigner for the cause of traditional British cheese. Rance’s Great British Cheese Book came out the year we opened, 1982, and it served as a sign of hope for frustrated cheesemakers like the Applebys. Years later, Christine Appleby, Lancy and Lucy’s daughter, declared, “If it hadn’t been for him, we’d have given up years ago. He was the flagship of British cheese.”

Thanks to all of the decisions to opt for hope, we all have the chance to enjoy this tasty treat! To make this little combo, it only takes a couple of minutes. Cook a couple slices of bacon per person—Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon is always awesome. When the bacon is cooked but not crispy, crumble on a bit of the Appleby’s Farmhouse Cheshire. Cover it for a minute or so, until the cheese softens but doesn’t totally melt. Take out with a spatula and eat!

I like to also put it on a toasted Bakehouse brioche roll to make my own version of a British BLT. You can also add a fried egg, and a bit of lettuce, tomato, and mayo! As per what I wrote about extensively in “A Taste of Zingerman’s Food Philosophy,” it’s the coming together of simple, super quality, traditionally made ingredients to make for one impressively tasty treat.

Cheshire cheese, please
Better get some bacon

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