Here is my first entry for the monthly what’s on your plate? foodie challenge run by Donna from retirement reflections and her friend Deb, the widow Badass. I am not a baker or a foodie but sometimes the story behind a meal can be as interesting as the recipe. (I hope so anyway).
On my plate last Saturday was a very tasty ploughman’s lunch which we enjoyed in the Wensleydale Creamery in North Yorkshire.
Read on to find out what I was doing so far north and more importantly what a ploughman’s lunch is….
In England, we spent much of last year and the first part of this year in lockdown. This meant we could only make essential journeys and were not allowed to stay away from home overnight for leisure. Like most people, I have been getting cabin fever and longing to escape the city.
When I spotted that a local coach firm was offering a short break to the Yorkshire Dales staying in Harrogate I was hooked . The tour included a ride on the steam railway from the original railway children film, a narrow boat cruise on the Skipton canal, a tour round a local brewery and a visit to the Wensleydale creamery. It was certainly a packed weekend. Yorkshire folk have a reputation for being good trenchermen so I knew the food would be good.
My favourite meal was probably lunch in the Wensleydale creamery coffee shop.
The Wensleydale Creamery is in Hawes, one of England’s highest towns set at 850 ft above sea level. As we drove across the Yorkshire dales I was suprised to see lots of brightly painted Romany caravans and horses on the way to the annual Romany horse fair.
The early farmers in the dales probably made cheese using sheep and goat milk. But the Cistercian monks who settled near by in 115o are credited with bringing the recipe for Wensleydale cheese over from Europe. After the dissolution of the monasteries cheese making was carried on by farmers’ wives in their own kitchens. In 1897 a local corn merchant opened a creamery in Hawes and it has now grown to handle millions of gallons of milk .
Wensleydale is a pale, mild crumbly cheese made in the same way as cheddar cheese but with less salt. In Yorkshire it is traditionally served with fruit cake or apple pie. You can find it in the supermarkets mixed with apricots or cranberries. I learnt that the fruit is added later to avoid dyeing the cheese pink or orange. It was traditionally a summer cheese made when cows could eat the lush fresh Yorkshire grass and produce extra milk. Now it is made all the year round.
The Wallace and Gromit connection
Famously Wensleydale is Wallace’s favourite cheese. There are two reasons for this. Firstly the late Peter Sallis who did the voice over for Wallace was from Yorkshire and secondly Nick Park who did the animation for the character liked the mouth movements you make when you say the phrase “Wensleydale cheese.” Wensleydale creamery were very delighted with the choice as they had been in financial difficulty before the films were made. Now the visitor centre is one of the top tourist attractions on the north Yorkshire moors.
English peasants probably ate bread and cheese with an onion or pickle washed down with beer. However the term ploughman’s lunch is actually quite recent. In the 1950’s the cheese bureau, a marketing body began promoting the idea to pubs to increase the sales of cheese which had recently ceased to be rationed. Our ploughman’s lunch was an upmarket version with a pork pie, fruit chutney, coleslaw and salad as well as the all important slice of Wensleydale cheese.
The Wensleydale Creamery Visitor attraction
If you would like to find out more about Wensleydale cheese visit the Wensleydale creamery website. You will find virtual cheese and butter making demonstrations, lots of cheese recipes as well as children’s activities. You can also buy cheese and other products online. If you visit in person you can watch cheese being made and visit the large gift shop, restaurant and coffee shop.