Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese

Graham Kirkham, Mrs Kirkham's

Cloth-bound and sealed with butter, Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese cuts quite a dash on the Booths cheese counter. Made from raw, unpasteurised milk – now a rare treat – it has a flavour which cheesemaker Graham Kirkham, smiling but entirely in earnest, describes as “mega”. More specifically, he says, “Traditional Lancashire should have a big wow factor flavour but with nothing prickly or sharp; mellow, milky, and buttery, that’s what we’re looking for, with a little bit of lemon acidity on the back.”

A year’s production at the family dairy near Goosnargh, Lancashire is equivalent to what a big producer might make in a day. This small scale allows Graham to work to his mother Ruth’s recipe, using the same starter culture and rennet used by his grandmother, who made cheese all her life. Some of her heavy, old-fashioned blue cheese presses, moulds and curd knives are still in use, too – why change what works? “It’s very traditional, very territorial,” says Graham, who’ll be showing his grandmother’s kit to Booths’ cheese counter specialists when they visit to see where the magic happens. “Whenever Booths come up to have a look round they’re positive and fill us full of confidence,” he says. “They love quality products, so it’s the right place to have our cheese.”

If they ask nicely, Graham will let them taste some of the extra-mature cheeses he ages past the three-month mark out of a kind of creator’s curiosity. “Mrs Kirkham’s is what we would call the taste of Lancashire and it’s what we’re known for, but for something a bit funky, we’ve got some old monsters hanging around!”