Cheddar Cheese: An Origin Story

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, cheddar is among the most popular cheeses in America, followed closely by mozzarella. In 2011 alone, cheddar accounted for 36.7 percent of the cheese sold in the U.S., the most concentrated amount of any one type. As a student of an online culinary arts program, considering cheddar cheese may have you thinking of your favorite diary recipes. But how well do you really know cheddar? Here’s a look at this most beloved of cheeses:

The birth of cheddar
The cheese is appropriately named because it was developed in the village of Cheddar in Somerset, England, during the 12th century. After its creation, cheddar cheese became popular with English nobles and made appearances at many royal banquets. In fact, according to the British Cheese Board, King Henry II purchased more than 10,000 pounds of the cheese in 1107, and declared it to be the best in Britain. Henry’s son, Prince John, continued to serve cheddar cheese during royal affairs.

Now cheddar cheese is made and sold all around the world.

The world of cheddar
Cheddar cheese comes in many colors and forms. Its hue ranges from milky white to pumpkin orange and includes everything in between. On its own, cheddar is a light, creamy yellow hue, and more orange shades are produced with annatto. This natural dye ordinates from the achiote tree found in South America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Many consumers believe that the darker the color, the richer the cheese will taste, which is a large part of why it’s dyed.

The flavor profile of a block of cheddar is partially determined by where it was made. For example. the IDFA notes that Canadian cheddars are creamier and smoother than other varieties, and that they mix sharpness and flavor well.

The making of cheddar
Since 1857, the cheese has been made by a process called “cheddaring” in which pieces of curd are stacked atop one another and pressed to remove the whey. Cheddaring was a revolutionary processes created by Joseph Harding that suppressed the growing of microorganisms that caused bacteria. The cheese is then aged.

Mild varieties are often sold after three months of aging, and medium to mature cheddar can be three to six months-old. Mature or sharp cheddar is generally nine months or older, extra sharp is around 15 months, and vintage is 18 months or more. Cheese experts believe that cheddar is best when it’s between five and six years old, though a three-year-old block can make an excellent treat.

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