Monday, 28 January 2008

Cheese of the month - Mrs. Kirkham's

I don't know how it sounds to you, but I was deeply suspicious the first time I heard the name Mrs. Kirkham's. Like Bernard Matthews or Aunt Bessie's, it sounds like a fictitious name dreamed up by marketing executives to evoke cheerful simple farm folk and organic, hand-made produce, as opposed to the mass-market mechanically-reduced gunge such stuff generally turns out to be. And yes, I know Bernard Matthews was a real person, but you get my point.

So imagine my delight when I discoverd that Mrs Kirkham's is pretty much the real deal. Unpasturised milk, small herd, small batches and a genuinely family-owned business that goes back 3 generations, at least if their website is to be believed. All of which would count for naught if the cheese didn't taste any good, but as I can testify since my introduction to it in Liverpool last month, Mrs. Kirkham's is a lovely little cheese.

It is distinctly Lancashire with that trademark creamy crumbliness, but it's softer and waxier than your average supermarket variety, so the crumbliness is a pleasant texture rather than just being dry and cloying in the mouth. Also it has a definite pungent note, almost a tang of blue cheese, adding a wonderful depth to the flavour. I imagine that left even longer this cheese would continue to mature and grow in complexity, although I doubt it will get the chance in my house. I bought as big a slab as I could reasonably have got away with without Hamish Johnston thinking I was going into wholesale, and it's already half gone.

Still, if you get a chance, see if you can get a hold of some Mrs Kirkham's. It's not as scary as some I've tried on this blog before, but it has enough going on to raise it above the crowd and should make a nice clean contrast on any cheese board next to more pungent varieties. And as it seems to represent everything that's good about British produce, and is made in the North West of England to boot, I can recommend it wholeheartedly. Bootiful.



Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of mrs kirkhams but I must say that I find Cheshire cheese slightly superior to Lancashire, they are quite similar but Cheshire has a more interesting texture and is a bit more tangy and nutty. I have to agree with Jay Raynor that on the whole (mrs kirkhams aside) Lancashire cheese is a bit bleh

Unknown said...

There's nothing better that Mrs Kirkham's for cheese on toast.

Anonymous said...

I'm with eifion - one thing Lancashire cheese excels at is melting on toast, either in a rarebit or simply with a splash of HP. Indeed, years ago Lancashire used to be marketed as a Toaster.

I do, though, find Lancashire and Cheshire cheeses very much drier than they were, say, 40 years ago - why is that, I wonder? (No, it's not failing memory, I know others who feel the same). Also, around that time, dropping a spoonful of grated Red Leicester onto a hot, greasy, frying pan would yield, in a matter of seconds, an airy, frothy, slightly crisp wafer of very tasty fried cheese, especially if there was any bacon fat left in the pan - these days all you get, for the most part, is a blob of hot goo.

Chris Pople said...

I'm sure Mrs. Kirkham's would go very well on a slice of toasted bread, but at nearly £5 a block I'm not sure I'm brave enough to try it!

And regarding Red Leicester, I think the trick is to find one that has been produced using the traditional colouring methods (something called anetto according to Wikipedia) and not just chemical food colouring. Then it has more of a chance of being higher quality. Check the ingredients list next time you're in the market for some.