Cheddar was first made in the caves called Gorge in the town of Cheddar, Somerset, in the 12th century. The temperature and the humidity within the caves were perfect for the cheese to mature. Henry II of England purchased 4.6 tons of the product in 1170, and Prince John regularly ordered cheddar for all of the royal banquets. Even beyond that, Charles I would eagerly await the production of cheddar by pre-ordering it. According to the British Cheese Board, cheddar cheese is the most consumed cheese across the globe.
The UK cheddar cheese has a very distinct taste from the cheddar cheese produced in other parts of the world. Let us learn about the different varieties of cheddar available in Britain.
Basic Preparation of Cheddar
Cheddar is prepared by curdling milk with rennet and acid, which forms curds that separate from whey. To remove extra whey, the curds are cut, drained, and pressed into moulds. The next step is to allow the cheese wheels to mature, which can take anywhere from a few months to several years. During their aging period, they develop their unique flavour and texture. Regular turning, salting, and temperature control are all part of the aging process. The skillful balancing of time and craftsmanship results in a wide range of Cheddar varieties, from mild and creamy to sharp and crumbly.
Some of the Cheddar Varieties
Mature cheddar is a traditional British cheese variety known for its strong flavour and slightly crumbly texture. It aged 9 to 15 months, giving it time to acquire a unique flavour. Mature Cheddar has a tangy, savoury sharpness to its flavour that is frequently accompanied by nutty undertones. Because of its slightly crumbly but still creamy texture, it can be used in various culinary applications. For cheese lovers looking for a flavourful and well-balanced cheese experience, mature Cheddar is a popular option. It can be eaten on its own, melted in dishes, or paired with fruits and wines. Some of the top brands that produce mature cheddar are Cathedral City, Davidstow, Barber's, and Wyke Farms.
Cheddar that has been smoked over oak chips has a distinct and robust smokiness. The earthy and woodsy notes of oak are combined with the richness of cheddar, giving an extremely burly and distinct taste. Ford Farm and Snowdonia Cheese Company produce cheddar that has a distinctive oak-induced smokiness.
Extra Mature Cheddar
Extra mature cheddar is aged for at least 15 months and has a complex and sharp flavour. It has a strong tanginess and crumbly texture with crunchy calcium lactate crystals. Its nutty and almost earthy flavour results from the prolonged aging process. It is one of the favourite cheese of connoisseurs. Black Bomber by Snowdonia Cheese Company is an example of this type of cheese. It is known for its intensely nutty and crumbly flavour.
Mild cheddar has a creamy and delicate flavour profile as it is aged for a shorter time. It has a unique texture that is soft and a little elastic. For those who prefer a milder cheddar flavour, this variety offers subtle buttery and milky notes. Companies like Pilgrims Choice and Wyke Farms offer cheddar that has a creamy, mild flavour and a soft and elastic texture.
Vintage cheddar is aged for over two years. It has an intensely tangy flavour that is exceptionally sharp and has deep, nutty, and fruity undertones. The calcium lactate crystals may be visible at times, and the texture of this cheese is crumbly. Because of its prolonged maturation, it develops a rich, savoury flavor, making it a popular option for special occasions. Famous artisanal producers of vintage cheddar with rich, fruity undertones are Montgomery's Cheddar and Keen's Cheddar.
White cheddar retains its original light colour because no annatto is added to it. It has a flavour that is much like traditional cheddar but lacks the orange colour. It has a smooth, firm texture and a creamy, mildly tangy, and slightly nutty flavour. Wyke Farm makes the most delicious white cheddar that is known for its natural colour and smooth taste.
Smoking the cheddar gives it a nice smoky flavour that distinguishes it from other cheddars. It has a strong smokiness to it and is slightly woody and savoury. It is used in a variety of culinary preparations, including sandwiches and cheeseboards. Applewood Smoked Cheddar is a well-known choice for this type of cheese.
Cheddar with Herbs
When cheddar is combined with herbs like chives or parsley, it gives the cheese a subtle herbal flavour. The flavour of the cheddar differs according to the herbs added to it. This type of cheddar tastes fresh and aromatic. Brands like Barber's and Godminster infuse cheddar with herbs like chives or parsley to give them a distinct flavour.
Black Bomber Cheddar
The extraordinary extra-mature Black Bomber Cheddar is renowned for its strong flavour and distinctive presentation. It has a creamy, crumbly texture with a striking black wax coating that melts in the mouth. With distinct nutty and tangy notes, the flavour is exceptionally robust and intense. Its complexity is increased by the development of crunchy calcium lactate crystals, which occur after an extended aging process of more than 18 months. Cheese connoisseurs love Black Bomber because it is a distinctive cheese with a delightful balance of strength and creaminess. Snowdonia Cheese Company is known for its Black Bomber Cheddar.
Specially for the Cheese Enthusiasts
If you have a special palate for mature cheese, then you must try the extra extra extra mature cheese from Fowlers. It is aged for 4 years!!! This special cheese is made in Earlswood, Warwickshire, and has a soft texture when compared to the other cheddars.
Cheddar's enduring popularity is evidence of its capacity to enhance both festive and everyday meals. Each bite brings back memories of home and tradition, reminding us why everyone loves cheese!