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1156 in Jervaulx, United Kingdom

Jervaulx Abbey

Recipe - told by Lilliana Grbic

The abbey at Jervaulx was founded by Acarius FitzBardolf, near the beginning of King Henry II's reign in 1156 . This great Cistercian abbeys of Yorkshire, was dedicated to St Mary after Abbot John had a dream or vision.

Jervaulx was originally located a few miles away, in the Vale of Ure. However, the land proved to be poor for farming and monks and their first abbot, John de Kingston, complained that the site was unsuitable for their needs. Therefore they decided to remove their monastery to a better location at Witton. Now it is located in a peaceful valley setting in East Witton, This area is today known as Wensleydale. Jervaulx Abbey was passed down through numerous families after the Dissolution of the Monasteries and eventually turned into a romantic garden.

Drawing from Wenslay church

Jervaulx Abbey is the original home of Wensleydale cheese, previously known as Cover Bridge cheese, The original recipe was perfected by the monks. They also cultivated large herb and flower gardens and bred horses. Sadly the abbey was destroyed during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. The last abbot was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where his signature remains carved into the wall of his cell.

Wensleydale cheese

It remains in private ownership to this day, and the current owners opened a tearoom in 1994. Jervaulx Abbey is open to the public and relies on donations to maintain it. The standing remains of the abbey include part of the church and claustral buildings, as well as a watermill. 

The Jervaulx Abbey ruins hosts more than 180 varieties of wildflower.

There’s a beautiful scenic walk that starts at the Abbey and incorporates Witton Fell, parklands of Wensleydale and the hamlet of Low Thorpe. It takes approximately three hours and is a 9km circular route. To make a cheese according the local recipe included, takes approximately 10 hours.



Sterilise all equipment in boiling water for 15 min. If not possible to boil, wipe with down with vinegar and a boiled cloth. If you handle the milk or curds or finished cheese, spray vinegar on hands and rub together until dry. That way the milk will not get infected by any wild yeasts or moulds that maybe on hands.


Using a double boiler, heat the milk to 30°C . If using homogenised milk, add calcium chloride to 2 tablespoons water and mix to the milk gently.


Add Mesophylic starter, mix well for a minute, cover and allow milk to ripen for 45 minutes.


Add rennet whilst stirring and stir bottom to top for 2 minutes. Rennet is an enzyme used to coagulate milk, in order to form a thick curd. Rennet begins working at temperatures between 30°C and few degrees above. Rennet continues setting milk within the correct temperatures. So, when the recipe states, it is time to cut the curds, it is important to do so in a timely manor. Otherwise, the curd can become too firm for the cheese you are trying to make.


Cover and allow to stand for 45 minutes until the curd sets, maintaining the temperature. Test with your finger for a clean break in the curds, then cut the curd into 13 mm cubes and allow to rest for 5 minutes.


Stir the curds and whey for 10 minutes, then let rest for 15 minutes. Stir the curd again as you raise the temperature to 32°C. Maintain this temperature, and stir the curd as often as necessary to stop the curd knitting together. Do this for 2 hours.


Drain the whey off and ladle the curd into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Tie in a bundle and for 2 hours, open every 15 minutes to break the curd into small pieces.


After the two hours break up the curd for one final time and apply the salt. Mix the curds and salt well.


Place half the curd into a cheesecloth lined 1 kg cheese basket and apply a layer of sterilised sage leaves (sterilise on clean oven tray at 120°C for 10 minutes), pressing down well.


Fill with remainder of curd and press at 5 kg for 15 minutes. Carefully remove cheese from cloth, turn over and press at 25 kg for 12 hours.


Remove from press and cheesecloth. Place on a board and allow to dry for 2 days.


Apply wax and store at 13-15°C at 80-85% humidity. Can be eaten in 3 weeks or aged for up to 3 months.

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