Lancashire Cheese vs. Cheddar Cheese

Lancashire and Cheddar are two classic English cheeses with distinct flavors and textures.

Lancashire Cheese vs. Cheddar Cheese

Both originated in England - Lancashire from the county of Lancashire in the northwest, and Cheddar around the village of Cheddar in southwest England.

How Lancashire Cheese is Traditionally Made

Lancashire cheese has been made in Lancashire county for centuries, with over 200 farmhouse producers until just a few decades ago. Today only one farmstead producer remains - Graham Kirkham and his family who have championed the traditional production process.

The key characteristics of Lancashire cheese when made traditionally are:

  • A creamy, fluffy, light texture - Almost like set yogurt or loose cream cheese rather than firm cheddar. Melts in the mouth.
  • Rich buttery, lemony flavors - Ranging from a fresh tang to more powerful sharp notes when aged longer. Complex, mouthfilling flavor.
  • Bounds the pressed curds in cloth - Gives the curds room to knit together to a loose, crumbly texture.

Traditional Lancashire uses a unique "multi-day curd" method where curd from multiple days is combined to make each wheel of cheese:

  • Milk from 2 or 3 days is slowly acidified with gentle starter culture additions
  • The curds acidify gently over 24+ hours
  • Curds are cut, pressed by hand, drained, then combined
  • Mixed curds are hooped, pressed, and clothbound together

This unhurried process allows flavor development while the curds knit together loosely when combined after draining. The cloth bound wheels can then be aged from 2 months up to a year for sharper notes.

Key Takeaway: Traditional Lancashire cheese is made slowly with a unique multi-day curd method that creates a loose, buttery texture and complex flavors.

How Cheddar Cheese is Traditionally Made

Just like Lancashire, traditional farmhouse Cheddar was made in a very specific area of England - the village of Cheddar in Somerset county. The cheese is named after the village and the Cheddar Gorge where the ideal cheese caves were located.

Up until modern times, Cheddar cheese was made according to a similar territorial recipe, process and aging which gave it signature traits:

  • Firm, tight-knit texture yet smooth. Slight openings and cracks.
  • Rich lasting flavors - Ranging from milky, nutty, fruity to caramelized and savory. Tangy zip.
  • Clothbound wheels were the norm to allow moisture loss but prevent over-drying.

The traditional Cheddar make procedure shares aspects with Lancashire but has key differences:

  • Starter culture is added and milk acidifies
  • Curd is cut small and stirred to drive out moisture
  • Curd grains drained then stacked and restacked to expel whey
  • Curds are milled, salted, hooped, pressed, then clothbound
  • Aged from 4 months to over a year for full flavor

The stirring and stacking help remove moisture from the curd while acidification happens simultaneously. This coordinates acidity and drainage to form a fine curd, unlike Lancashire's layering of drained curds.

The Path to Industrial Dominance for Cheddar

The traditional Cheddar make procedure proved most adaptable to modernization. As dairy production increased dramatically from the 18th century onwards in Britain, Cheddar makers were best positioned to scale up production while maintaining quality.

Factors that enabled rapid growth of Cheddar production from its southwest England origin:

  • Quick make procedure - Efficient stirring, heating, stacking. Made in just a few hours.
  • Milder taste - Broad appeal and less sensitive to quality issues when produced en masse.
  • Firm texture - Stands up to mass production and transport without excessive breakdown.

Industrial producers focused on accelerating the make procedure, maximizing efficiency and volumes. This increased acidification from extra starter culture which amplifies sharpness in the end cheese. Sweet cultures are often added to mask bitter notes.

Mass Cheddar production exploded as the cheese became a commodity around the world. Traditional craft Cheddar persists on a smaller artisan scale to this day alongside huge modern factories.

Keeping Lancashire Local with Traditional Cheesemaking

Contrary to Cheddar's industrialization path, Lancashire cheese never left northwest England in any major way. It simply didn't suit high volume make procedures which damaged the delicate texture and flavors.

There were over 200 Lancashire creameries still crafting the cheese in 1939. But modern dairy shifted heavily towards Cheddar-style production and within decades almost all Lancashire creameries had shuttered.

Graham Kirkham is the last remaining farmhouse Lancashire cheese maker, still using the traditional multi-day curd method. The time-honored process resists efficiency shortcuts:

  • Gentle acidification happens over 24 hours or more
  • Handling the delicate curds multiple times would damage them
  • Cloth binding supports moisture loss without getting too dry
  • Aging develops complex flavors needing care and monitoring

The Kirkham family currently produce just 4 tonnes per year - compare that to over 350,000 tonnes of industrial Cheddar made annually in Britain alone.

But their velvety, buttery Lancashire commands interest from chefs and cheese aficionados craving uniqueness and heritage. Their farm bisects the Lancashire - Yorkshire border which used to mark the areas for each cheese.

Key Takeaway: Unlike adaptable Cheddar, traditional Lancashire could not translate to mass production. It remains a hyperlocal delicacy at risk of disappearing forever.

Comparing Traditional Lancashire and Cheddar Flavors

Beyond the different make procedures, Lancashire and Cheddar deliver their own distinctive eating experience when crafted traditionally:

AttributeTraditional LancashireTraditional Cheddar
TextureLight, flaky, creamyFirm, smooth, some openings
AromaButtery, lemony, yogurtyRich, complex, some sharpness
FlavorRanging from milky to sharp tangDeep rounded notes, lasting tangy finish
ColorCream to pale yellowNatural white to deep yellow

These general flavor profiles would have been even more differentiated between counties historically when recipes and processes aligned more strictly geographically.

Modern consumers tend to expect a sharper, more crumbly flavor from today's Lancashire - but connoisseurs seek out the special creamy variety that mellows and turns more complex with age.

Cheddar now has mass market expectations around color and a widespread perception of it being easier to enjoy thanks to smooth uniformity and brighter taste. Extra color and starter cultures make industrial Cheddar its own product compared to the subtle complexity of artisan clothbound Cheddar.

Cheese authorities emphasize starting with exceptional milk - the foundation that allows each region's traditional cheese to express subtle characteristics tied to native grass and herbs grazed by the animals. called "terroir" (the French term used in wine as well). The Kirkham's graze their own small herd between two counties to form the grassy, floral base notes that carry through their cheese.

Modern high-efficiency milking and cheese standardization reduce much of this nuance - another reason lover's of unique cheese seek out the last makers persevering with heritage methods.

The Future of Traditional British Cheeses

The diverging paths of Lancashire and Cheddar over the past 150+ years fuels cheese conservation efforts currently underway in England:

  • Government grants fund apprentices to learn from cheese elders like Graham Kirkham to preserve threatened techniques.
  • Not-for-profit organizations promote public awareness of cheeses' origins and stories. Like Lancashire's long history woven into the culture of England's north country.
  • Cheese competitions focus attention on exciting new producers innovating with native recipes while respecting traditions. Bringing a wider range of flavors and textures back into play.

But challenges persist in keeping heritage cheeses available and relevant:

  • Far more effort and smaller volumes limit profits while commodity cheese is cheap and efficient.
  • Consumers associate "Lancashire" with young crumbly white cheese bearing no resemblance to original.
  • Losing critical mass of producers means less collaboration, troubleshooting and inspiration around traditional styles.

The Kirkham family themselves represent the uncertain future - their last remaining farmhouse focus tremendous attention but their sons show little interest so far in taking up the tradition.

That highlights the cultural loss beyond just a tasty cheese if Lancashire disappears or Cheddar's origins become blurred. These cheeses connect people across generations to long-standing food traditions that reflect regional characters and values. Heritage cheese lovers work not just to preserve interesting tastes, but to celebrate community legacies woven into a simple lump of aged curd.

Cheddar will undoubtedly carry on as one of the world's favorite cheeses thanks to industry shaping it for the widest possible audience over the last 200 years. But there are opportunities for reinvigorating awareness of traditionally crafted Cheddar as the discerning customer base expands.

Lancashire though remains precariously close to the edge of extinction. That reality energizes preservation efforts and attracts devotees willing to seek out Graham Kirkham's earthy, crumbly wheels and toast them by the fire during long Northern winters just as Lancashire residents have done for ages.

Food is culture made edible - and traditional cheeses like these need support against the sweeping tide of mass food production if their stories are to be tasted by future generations.


What's the difference between crumbly and creamy Lancashire?

Crumbly Lancashire is made with extra starter bacteria for fast acidification so it can be produced quickly. The crumbly texture and bland flavor bears no resemblance to silky, buttery traditional Lancashire using the slow multi-day curd process.

Why is Cheddar so popular compared to other English cheeses?

Cheddar overtook other English cheeses in popularity thanks to the Southwest region's make procedure which enabled acceleration for mass production. The stirred, stacked curds make a cheese that is easier to standardize. Historically Cheddar was also mildly flavored with broad appeal vs strong territorial cheeses.

Is traditional Cheddar still made?

Yes, there are over 100 specialty Cheddar creameries persist across England. But the vast majority of "Cheddar" is now industrial - over 350,000 tonnes made in British factories annually. Some farmers are working to repopularize tangy, nuanced, clothbound Cheddar handmade according to regional traditions.

What separates Lancashire terroir from other cheeses?

Cheese expressing "terroir" captures the environmental signature of the grazing region - climate, soil, vegetation the animals eat. Lancashire milk traditionally came from rugged terrain marked by erratic weather, hearty livestock, stone barns with seasonally shifting diets. This connects to a complex, sturdy cheese with rustic personality.


Lancashire and Cheddar share lineage as iconic English cheeses tied to their specific place of origin.

But various factors led Cheddar production to industrialize rapidly in the name of efficiency. Traditional handmade Cheddar persists in pockets, trying to distinguish itself from factory versions.

Unique Lancashire resisted modernization but is now made by only a single creamery preserving heritage methods.

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!