Extinct cheese resurrected after 100 years in Ludlow

An extinct cheese which is named after the county has been resurrected after more than 100 years.

(LEFT-RIGHT) Cheesemonger Lynn Wight, dairy manager Dudley Martin, and cheesemonger Carol Fellows
(LEFT-RIGHT) Cheesemonger Lynn Wight, dairy manager Dudley Martin, and cheesemonger Carol Fellows

The cheese, named Shropshire, has been launched at Ludlow Food Centre after workers spent about two years piecing together clues and bits of information about how it was made.

The food centre’s dairy manager, Dudley Martin, has a passion for classic British territorial cheeses and his inspiration for his latest cheese came from a single historical piece of information regarding an old dairy in Ludlow and the long forgotten Shropshire cheese it once produced.

Shropshire Cheese, at Ludlow Food Centre

Dudley sifted through historical records to get to grips with the fundamentals of this historic cheese – its size, methods of production and how long was it matured, with the aim of producing a cheese that is an authentic interpretation of the original.

Dudley was unable to find a definitive recipe for Shropshire cheese, so he looked at known similarities to Cheshire cheese, how it was made in the past and how it evolved.

Records gave indications as to the size of Shropshire cheese and we knew that it would have fermented naturally as a result of the raw milk microflora, as there were no starter cultures in the 18th century.

Dairy manager Dudley Martin, in the cheese maturing room

Before attempting the first vat of Shropshire Cheese, nine months was spent culturing and re-culturing his own natural starter that would allow the cheese to be a truer replication of the original.

Dudley has made two seasonal variants, winter and summer, using the natural colourants carrot juice and marigold, which were commonly used in the period 1750 to 1800 when Shropshire cheese was in its heyday.

The Shropshire Cheese is crumbly in texture, its closest cousin was the long-ripened Cheshire, itself extinct, which was rich, buttery, soft and crumbly. A more contemporary comparison is a tasty Lancashire although the Shropshire is gentler and subtler.

(LEFT-RIGHT) Cheesemonger Lynn Wight, dairy manager Dudley Martin, and cheesemonger Carol Fellows

Dudley said: “Many people have asked me why I have decided to resurrect Shropshire, I think curiosity is the most important attribute of a cheese maker.

"Curiosity led me here, and a little pride too. I am very proud of this region, and its food, so when we discovered Shropshire had its own forgotten cheese variety with a 350-year history, we were keen to learn as much about it as we could, to see if it would be possible to recreate this food from the past.

"I have discovered some fascinating stuff along the way, and the process has taught me so much about British cheese making history.”

Jon Edwards, managing director of Ludlow Food Centre, said: “I am extremely proud of Dudley and the dairy team for their hard work, huge effort and determination in bringing back to life a big part of this county’s wonderful cheese heritage, the Shropshire cheese.”

Shropshire cheese is now available to purchase from Ludlow Food Centre.

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