Oct 30, 2012

Cheeses of the World - Part Fifteen

I know I'm a little pedestrian when it comes to my taste in cheese, but cheddar is my absolute favorite. It's the one cheese that's rarely missing from my refrigerator.

A firm cheese, cheddar is naturally a pale yellow in colour. The orange colour you most often see it in comes from a dye. It comes in many types, from mild to super sharp, plain to flavoured, and smooth to crumbly. The taste depends on the aging. As it ages, cheddar loses moisture and its texture becomes more crumbly.

Cheddar cheese originates from the village of, you guessed it, Cheddar, in Somerset England. Somerset known for rich pastures and the high quality of its milk, but it also had a series of caves which were the perfect temperature and humidity for the curing process of cheese.

Many scholars believe that the Romans actually brought the recipe for cheddar cheese from Gaul but others believe that cheddar is a purely British invention. Historical records show that it dates back to at least the 1100s, and was enjoyed by King Henry II.

Although some cheddar was made at home, most was produced in cooperatives - farmer's would bring their milk for weighing and their contributions were recorded. When they had contributed a hundred pounds of milk they were entitled to a large wheel of cheddar.

The making of cheddar cheese is a lengthier process than that of other cheeses. The curds are gently heated, then cubed and drained. The draining process causes the curds to mat up and this mat is cut into loose blocks of cheese which are periodically turned, allowing for more drainage. This process is called cheddaring, and is essential to the creation of cheddar cheese. The cheddared curds are then cut, salted, and packed into molds to age.

As it ages, it becomes sharper and more flavourful. The color is naturally white or pale yellow but during the mid 1800s natural dyes were added to make it orange, although no one knows why. Mild cheddar can be aged for as little as 3 to 6 months, while sharper cheddars are aged from 12-18 months to several years.

Some Fun Cheddar Facts:

In 1866 a wheel of cheddar weighing 7,000 pounds was produced in Ingersoll, Ontario and displayed in New York and Britain. It was also immortalized in the poem Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing Over 7,000 Pounds, by James McIntrye.

In 1893 a group of farmers from Perth, Ontario produced what was known as The Mammoth Cheese, a cheese weighing 22,000 pounds. It was made for the Chicago World's Fair and when placed in its exhibit, it crashed through the floor. The display was moved to the concrete floor of the Agricultural Building.

Not to be out done by the Canadians, in 1964 a Wisconsin Cheese weighing 34,951 pounds was created for the New York World's Fair. The amount of milk that went into its making was the equivalent of the daily production of 16,000 cows.

The largest cheddar produced to date was created in Oregon by the Federation of American Cheese-makers. This was in 1989 and the cheddar in question weighed in at over 56,850 pounds.

Making Cheddar

It comes as no surprise that I found several sources to choose from if you'd like to try making your own cheddar cheese:
Making Cheese - Cheddar Cheese by Katie Thear
How to Make Cheddar Cheese at Home from Natural Home and Garden
How to Make Cheddar Cheese from eHow food
Make Your Own Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese from the Complete Idiots Guide.

Cheddar can be sliced, crumbled, grated, or melted. It goes with just about everything. Add it to your favourite soup or casserole for some added zip. Serve it with crackers, or Mom's apple pie. Use it in a sauce to pour over steamed veggies. Add it to an omelette or scrambled eggs. The possibilities are endless.


Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup
Scottish Cheddar Cheese and Spring Onion Tea-Time Scones
Pumpkin Pecan Cheddar Bread Pudding
Creamy Cheddar Onion Soup
All Day Macaroni and Cheese
Bacon Cheddar Twice-Baked Potatoes Recipe
Christmas Cheese Crackers Recipe
Cheddar and Macaroni Salad
Cheddar Cheese Bread
Cheddar Cheese Soup Cheddar Cheese Meat Loaf
Cheddar Cheese Pie
Cheddar Beef Pie Ham and Cheddar Eggs
Golden Cheddar Turkey Or Chicken Casserole

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