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Tell Me More About Cheddar Cheese

Glorious Cheddar Cheese!

As an American, having your mother stuff neon-orange cheddar cheese down your throat is part of the culture.  You know it, but where did it come from?

O' Cheddar Cheese - Where Did You Come From?

The name, Cheddar, was used, by some, because cheddar comes from the British Cheddar caves the original cheddar cheese was stored in.  

The Cheddar Complex or Cheddar Village of Somerset County, UK includes the Cheddar Gorge and the Cheddar Reservoir. The area also includes Gough's Cave and Cox's Cave, which have been suggested to be the site of prehistoric cheese-making. Finally, original UK Cheddar is made in the lower part of the gorge.

There's a EU Protected Designation of Origin in place for West Country Farmhouse Cheddar.   Therefore, If you buy cheese thus marked, you will know it has come from Somerset, Dorset, Devon or Cornwall by producers using the original method, and using milk from local farms.

How Popular is Cheddar Cheese?

Cheddar is the most popular cheese in the UK and second most in the US.

When was the first date Cheddar Cheese was produced?

Cheddar has been produced since at least the 11th century in the Village of Cheddar. There's record of King Henry II, Charles I, and Romans buying cheddar cheese.

Historical Moment In Cheese History
Joseph Harding Joseph Harding, dubbed "The Father Of Cheddar," for technical innovations related to cheddar cheese making, developed the "Joseph Harding method," which was the first modern system for Cheddar production based upon scientific principles. 

Joseph described the ideal quality of original Somerset Cheddar as "close and firm in texture, mellow in character or quality, rich with a tendency to melt in the mouth and has full and fine flavor somewhat like hazelnut!"

During the Second World War, and for nearly a decade after, most milk in Britain was used for making one single kind of cheese nicknamed "government cheddar" as part of rationing. This resulted in wiping out 98% of the cheese producers in the country. With the artisanal movement that's sweeping the UK, there are now more cheese-makers than ever.

How did cheddar get to America?

When people started coming over to the land that would become the U.S., people also brought cheddar with them and cheddar-making skills. It was made here from very early on. 

Who was first to mass-produce cheddar cheese in the United States?

The Williams family in upstate New York developed the first cheddar factory. Before that, all cheese was made on the farm.

How did cheddar get it's name?

“Cheddar" no longer refers to just the name of the English village, but rather to the pressing process by which the cheese is made. With this technique, known as "cheddaring." When cheddar is made, curds and whey are separated using the enzyme rennet. "Cheddaring" refers to an additional step in the production of Cheddar cheese where, after heating, the curd is kneaded with salt, cut into cubes to drain the whey, and then stacked and turned.

Why is American cheddar always yellow?

It's meant to disguise the color of the cheese.

Cheddar in most other countries is a variation of orange to mostly off-white. Aged cheddar can be a lighter color of yellow. Typically, however, American cheddar is colored with a spice called annatto, which extracted from seeds of the tropical achiote tree.

The color of the cheese is the same when using the annatto, whereas before there would be seasonal differences. If the cows are on the pasture, the milk is going to be much more yellow than if the cows are eating grain. The addition of annatto was an easy way to make cheddar cheese look the same all year round.

Close-up view into a truckle of cheddar cheese.

What the difference between mild, medium, sharp, and extra-sharp cheddar?

The names referrer to the flavor of the cheese after it's been aged to ripen. Mild cheddar is aged about 2 to 4 months, medium (4 to 8 months), sharp (9 to 12 months), and extra-sharp (aged over 1 year).

Are there levels of cheddar quality?

Yes. Looking at how your cheddar is wrapped will lead to clues about how it was aged. Longer-aged cheeses tend to start creamy and buttery when young and take on a nutty flavor and drier texture as the years pass. Factory-produced cheddar is typically rindless and comes wrapped in plastic or covered with wax. Farmstead cheeses have rinds that can range in color from golden brown to grayish brown. Handmade cheddar is almost always wrapped in cloth and isn't dyed orange with annatto. The cloth allows the cheese to breathe resulting in a dry, crumbly texture.

A Slice Of Flory's Truckle

What is a cheddar cheese truckle?

In the old English Language a Truckle means cylinder shape. Traditionally, Old World Cheddars are formed in truckles. They are usually taller than wide, and sometimes described as barrel-shaped.  Here's some Flory's Truckle.

Three sizes of aged cheddar cheese truckles

1 comment

Nov 07, 2017 • Posted by Jimbob

Wow, the colour of that “CLOSE-UP VIEW INTO A TRUCKLE OF CHEDDAR CHEESE.” is definitely not Cheddar! Looks like a Double Gloucestershire!

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