Let’s take a little journey back in time, shall we? I’ve been thinking a lot about the origins of some of our favourite British cheeses, and guess what? We owe a massive shoutout to a group of Cistercian monks over in Wensleydale. That’s right, these holy cheesemakers were the unsung heroes who started it all!
You might be asking, “Who the heck are these Cistercian monks?” Good question! Way back in the 12th century, a group of French monks travelled to the valleys of Wensleydale, North Yorkshire. Their mission? To spread spirituality and, as it turns out, kickstart the British love affair with cheese. They brought with them the know-how to create cheese using sheep’s milk, and from then on, the rest, as they say, is delicious history.
Photo Credit: Britannica - https://www.britannica.com/topic/Cistercians
Now, I’m not saying we’re all eating cheese for divine reasons, but there’s definitely something sacred about the craft of cheese-making, isn’t there? What makes this even more epic is that these monks were essentially pioneering a cheese-making trend in a land that was mainly familiar with cow’s milk. Sheep’s milk? Total game-changer!
Sheep’s milk is creamy, rich, and has that little extra oomph that adds complexity to the cheese. You can taste the landscape; the green, hilly pastures of Wensleydale captured in every bite. The Cistercian monks knew this, and they brought a method and passion that was borderline revolutionary at the time.
You might be more familiar with Wensleydale made from cow’s milk nowadays, but it’s the shepherds and their flocks we have to thank for the very first Wensleydale wheels. These monks laid the groundwork, setting a cheese tradition that, centuries later, we’re still in love with.
So, the next time you’re enjoying a creamy, tangy slice of Wensleydale, perhaps with a dollop of cranberry or a slice of apple pie, give a nod to those pioneering Cistercian monks. They knew what was up, and because of them, we’ve got this gorgeous bit of British heritage right on our cheese boards.
Until next time, keep it cheesy, folks! 🧀🇬🇧