This version, made by the Reed family of the Swaledale Cheese Company in Richmond, North Yorkshire, resurrects the original Swaledale thought to have been introduced to the Yorkshire Dales in the 11th century.
Named after the Dale (valley) where it was produced, the first Swaledale cheeses were made with the milk of Swaledale sheep or goats milk and it was not until the 17th Century when dairy cows were introduced into the Dales that the cheese started to be made with cow’s milk.
Like most cheeses from this region, Swaledale was primarily produced on the farm with a view to home consumption, with perhaps a few excess wheels being traded or bartered locally with grocers and corn merchants in exchange for staples such as food and flour.
By 1900, numerous creameries had been established in the area together with an effective system for collecting milk from the farms. This streamlining meant that suddenly Swaledale was being made in large quantities resulting in the subsequent decline of on-farm cheese production. This factor, combined with many years of adverse agricultural policy and the effects of two World Wars meant that the original farmhouse version of Swaledale was well on its way to extinction.
By 1980 the only producer left making traditional Swaledale was Mr & Mrs Longstaff of Harkerside above Reeth in Swaledale. The recipe was shrouded in mystery and had been handed down Mrs Longstaff’s family for generations. In the early 1980’s, Mr Longstaff died and Mrs Longstaff decided to sell her smallholding, simultaneously retiring from cheese making. Effectively Swaledale cheese became extinct.
However, in November 1986 Mrs Longstaff gave the original recipe to David & Mandy Reed and, acting as chief taster, she helped them to re-establish an authentic Swaledale cheese. The following year, David & Mandy set up The Swaledale Cheese Company and since then business has grown year on year. The company now produces approximately 1.75 tonnes of Swaledale per week.
In 1995, Swaledale cheese (both the ewe's and cow's milk versions) were awarded name protected PDO status.
In keeping with 19th century production practice, no salt is added to the curds. Instead, after unmolding the cheese is brined and allowed to mature for between six to eight weeks. During this time, mold has grown to form a natural rind and the cheese has a gentle, open texture and mild lactic flavor.