Cheddar is definitely the world’s most widely known and favorite cheese originated from the UK, or England, to be more precise. Its special manufacturing techniques spread far beyond the edges of the British Isles, and nowadays it has become one of the most consumed cheeses in the USA and many other countries.
The story of Cheddar cheese starts from the county of Somerset, England, around the late 12th century. The cheese is initially named after a small village where it was first produced, or after the picturesque nearby gorge where it was stored and aged. Until today, the original DOP protected “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar” is ripened there, in the cool humid caves. The history says that the cheese was much appreciated by British kings and queens, who ordered it to be served at the Royal feasts. During World War II the so called “government Cheddar” was the single kind of cheese made in Great Britain as a part of war rationing, using most cow’s milk produced in the country.
What makes Cheddar cheese unique is the “cheddaring” method introduced by the dairyman Joseph Harding in the middle of the 19th century. It is an additional step helping to make a firmer cheese with smooth stringy texture. According to the general cheesemaking process, after the whey is removed from the curds to make them more concentrated, they are heated and start melting. This is when the cheddaring stage begins. The curds are shaped into big slabs stacked together and then turned over many times. These pressed cheese slabs are milled before again they are pressed into molds to mature.
Because the duration of the aging process can be different, there are several types of Cheddar with some distinctions in their textures and flavor characteristics:
The color palette of Cheddar cheese includes different hues from white and ivory to bright yellow and pumpkin orange. The idea to change the color belonged to J. Harding and aimed to make white Cheddar cheese more marketable. The additive is a natural plant extract made from annatto seeds of the tropical Achiote tree, and it actually influences nothing except the appearance of the cheese.
In the kitchen Cheddar is versatile. It can be a perfect appetizer when served for a cheeseboard, an outstanding condiment for hot skillet dishes, pizzas, pastas and even apple pies and muffins when melted, and a dainty dessert when paired with apple jam. Cheddar cheese nutrition features make it a healthy dairy product even for those who are lactose intolerant, as the cheese contains almost no lactose and sugar, but it is high in calcium and phosphorous.
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