Historically, it is associated with the town of Leigh, Lancashire. Today, however, it is hand made by 7 skilled cheese makers, all situated in and around the Ribble Valley and the Forest of Bowland, in the heart of rural Lancashire, yet close to Preston, Blackburn and Clitheroe.
At one time, almost everyone in Lancashire ate Lancashire Cheese, and most farms in the county made it in one form or another. Evidence suggests that cheese was being made in Lancashire from the 13th Century; however the style, texture and taste is unlikely to be what we recognise as Lancashire cheese today. Each farmer's wife would use the surplus milk from their farm to produce cheese that would sustain their family and supplement their household income. Historical records show Lancashire cheese was being transported by boat to London from Liverpool in the 1600's.
Around 1890, a Lancashire County Council employee named Joseph Gornall began visiting all the farms in Lancashire, observing the cheese making activity and giving practical advice on production and method. His aim was to standardise Lancashire Cheese production across the county and create a formal recipe and method - one that is still used to this day.
Back in the 1890's Lancashire farms tended to be small holdings and farmers often did not have enough surplus milk to make a whole cheese. So without refrigeration, the best way of keeping surplus milk was to turn it into curd and store it overnight at room temperature. This curd was then mixed with the curd from the following day and in some cases blended again with the day after.
It is this traditional method that makes Lancashire Cheese unique and is still adhered to by Lancashire cheese makers today. It is also the reason why Traditional Lancashire Cheese, which is known and Creamy and Tasty Lancashire, has such a rich buttery flavour and when melted gives a smooth and even consistency.
Creamy Lancashire cheese is matured for between 4 and 12 weeks. Anything that is matured for longer is classified as Tasty Lancashire. Tasty Lancashire can be aged for up to 24 months.
Crumbly Lancashire is a more recent creation and is the style of Lancashire Cheese that is better known outside of the region. Crumbly Lancashire was created in the 1960s, when Cheese Factors in Lancashire demanded a younger, less expensive cheese that could compete with competitors such as Cheshire, Caerphilly and Wenslydale. The crumbly form of Lancashire cheese, the kind most often mass-produced outside the county, and found in the supermarkets, is therefore a relatively recent marketing innovation - "New" Lancashire is made with only one day's milking, in a similar method to Cheshire cheese, because it is easier and less expensive to produce