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Cheddar cheese

Cheddar cheese
A block of Cheddar cheese on a wooden chopping board, alongside a knife made of metal
Country of origin England
Region Somerset
Town Cheddar
Source of milk Cows
Pasteurised Frequently
Texture Hard
Aging time 3–18 months depending on variety
Certification West Country Farmhouse Cheddar PDO, Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar PGI

Cheddar cheese is a relatively hard, pale-yellow-to-off-white (or yellow-orange if spices such as annatto are added), sometimes "sharp" (i.e., acidic)-tasting, natural cheese. Originating in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset,[1] cheeses of this style are produced beyond this region and in several countries around the world.

Cheddar is the most popular type of cheese in the UK, accounting for 51 percent of the country's £1.9 billion annual cheese market.[2] It is also the second-most-popular cheese in the U.S.A. (behind mozzarella), with an average annual consumption of Script error: No such module "convert". per capita.[3] The United States produced Script error: No such module "convert". in 2010,[4] and the UK Script error: No such module "convert". in 2008.[5] The term "Cheddar cheese" is widely used, but has no Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) within the European Union. However, only Cheddar produced from local milk within four counties of South West England may use the name "West Country Farmhouse Cheddar".[6][7] Cheddar produced in Orkney is registered as protected geographical indication (PGI) under the name "Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar".[8]


The cheese originates from the village of Cheddar in Somerset, South West England. Cheddar Gorge on the edge of the village contains a number of caves, which provided the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the cheese.[5] Cheddar cheese traditionally had to be made within Script error: No such module "convert". of Wells Cathedral.[1]

Cheddar has been produced since at least the 12th century. A pipe roll of King Henry II from 1170 records the purchase of Script error: No such module "convert". at a farthing per pound (totaling £10.13s.4d, about £10.67 in decimal currency).[9] Charles I (1600–1649) also bought cheese from the village.[5] Romans may have brought the recipe to Britain from the Cantal region of France.[10]

Central to the modernisation and standardisation of Cheddar cheese was the 19th century Somerset dairyman Joseph Harding.[11] For his technical innovations, promotion of dairy hygiene, and volunteer dissemination of modern cheese-making techniques, he has been dubbed "the father of Cheddar cheese".[12] Harding introduced new equipment to the process of cheese-making, including his "revolving breaker" for curd cutting, saving much manual effort.[13][14] The "Joseph Harding method" was the first modern system for Cheddar production based upon scientific principles. Harding stated that Cheddar cheese is "not made in the field, nor in the byre, nor even in the cow, it is made in the dairy".[15] He and his wife were behind the introduction of the cheese into Scotland and North America. His sons, Henry and William Harding, were responsible for introducing Cheddar cheese production to Australia[16] and facilitating the establishment of the cheese industry in New Zealand respectively.

During the Second World War, and for nearly a decade after, most milk in Britain was used for the making of one single kind of cheese nicknamed "government Cheddar" as part of war economies and rationing.[17] This almost resulted in wiping out all other cheese production in the country. Before the First World War there were more than 3,500 cheese producers in Britain; fewer than 100 remained after the Second World War.[18]

According to a United States Department of Agriculture researcher, Cheddar cheese is the world's most popular variety of cheese, and the most studied type of cheese in scientific publications.[19]


The curds and whey are separated using rennet, an enzyme complex normally produced from the stomachs of newborn calves (in vegetarian or kosher cheeses, bacterial, yeast or mould-derived chymosin is used).[20][21]

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.[20] Strong, extra-mature Cheddar, sometimes called vintage, needs to be matured for up to 15 months. The cheese is kept at a constant temperature often requiring special facilities. As with other hard cheese varieties produced worldwide, caves provide an ideal environment for maturing cheese; still, today, some Cheddar cheese is matured in the caves at Wookey Hole and Cheddar Gorge. Additionally, some versions of Cheddar cheese are smoked.[22][23]

File:Cheddar cave cheese.jpg
Cheddar cheese maturing in the caves at Cheddar Gorge


File:MidSomerset Show 170803.jpg
Cheddar cheeses on display at the Mid Somerset Show

The ideal quality of the original Somerset Cheddar was described by Joseph Harding in 1864 as "close and firm in texture, yet mellow in character or quality; it is rich with a tendency to melt in the mouth, the flavour full and fine, approaching to that of a hazelnut".[24]

Cheddar made in the classical way tends to have a sharp, pungent flavour, often slightly earthy. Its texture is firm, with farmhouse traditional Cheddar being slightly crumbly; it should also, if mature, contain large cheese crystals consisting of calcium lactate – often precipitated when matured for times longer than six months.[25]

Cheddar can be a deep to pale yellow (off-white) colour, or a yellow-orange colour when certain plant extracts are added. One commonly used spice is annatto, extracted from seeds of the tropical achiote tree. Annatto is added to give Cheddar a sweet nutty flavour. The largest producer of Cheddar cheese in the United States, Kraft, uses a combination of annatto and oleoresin paprika, an extract of the lipophilic (oily) portion of paprika.[26]

Cheddar cheese was sometimes (and still can be found) packaged in black wax, but was more commonly packaged in larded cloth, which was impermeable to contaminants, but still allowed the cheese to "breathe."

The Slow Food Movement has created a Cheddar Presidium,[27] claiming that only three cheeses should be called "original Cheddar". Their specifications, which go further than the "West Country Farmhouse Cheddar" Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), require that Cheddar cheese be made in Somerset and with traditional methods, such as using raw milk, traditional animal rennet, and a cloth wrapping.[28]

International production


The Cheddar cheese name is used internationally; its name does not have a protected designation of origin (PDO) but the use of the name "West Country Farmhouse Cheddar" does. Countries making Cheddar cheese include Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Cheddars can be industrial or artisan cheeses. The flavour, colour and quality of industrial cheese varies significantly, and food packaging will usually indicate a strength, such as mild, medium, strong, tasty, sharp, extra sharp, mature, old, or vintage; this may indicate the maturation period, or food additives used to enhance the flavour. Artisan varieties develop strong and diverse flavours over time.


As of 2013, Cheddar accounts for over 55% of the Australian cheese market, with average consumption around 7.5 kg per person.[29] Cheddar is so ubiquitous that the name is rarely used: instead, Cheddar is sold by strength alone as e.g. "mild", "tasty" or "sharp".[30]


Following a wheat midge outbreak in Canada in the mid-nineteenth century, farmers in Ontario began to convert to dairy farming in large numbers, and Cheddar cheese became their main exportable product, even being exported to England. By the turn of the twentieth century there were 1,242 Cheddar factories in Ontario, and Cheddar had become Canada’s second largest export after timber.[31] Cheddar exports totaled Script error: No such module "convert". in 1904, but by 2012, Canada was a net importer of cheese. James L. Kraft grew up on a dairy farm in Ontario, before moving to Chicago. According to the writer Sarah Champman, "Although we cannot wholly lay the decline of cheese craft in Canada at the feet of James Lewis Kraft, it did correspond with the rise of Kraft’s processed cheese empire."[31] Most Canadian Cheddar is produced by a number of large companies in Ontario, though other provinces produce some and there are some smaller artisanal producers. The annual production is 120,000 tons.[32] It is aged a minimum of three months, but much of it is held for much longer, up to 10 years.

Canadian Cheddar cheese soup is a featured dish at the Canada pavilion at Epcot, in Walt Disney World.[33]

New Zealand

Much of the Cheddar cheese in New Zealand is factory produced but of good quality. Most of it is sold young within the country. The Anchor dairy company ships New Zealand Cheddars to the UK, where they mature for another year or so.[34]

United Kingdom

PDO logo can be displayed on any approved West Country Farmhouse Cheddar cheese
The four English counties in the PDO

Only one producer of the cheese is now based in Cheddar itself, The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co.[35] The name "cheddar" is not protected by the European Union, though the name "West Country Farmhouse Cheddar" has an EU protected designation of origin, and may only be produced in Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall, using milk sourced from those counties.[36] Cheddar is usually sold as mild, medium, mature, extra mature or vintage. Mature cheddar is the best selling variety in the UK.[37]

United States of America

File:Bravo Cheddar.jpg
Cheddar-style cheese from Bravo Farms, Traver, California

The state of Wisconsin produces the most Cheddar cheese in the U.S.A.; other centres of production include: California; Idaho; upstate New York; Vermont; Tillamook, Oregon; Texas; and, Oklahoma. It is sold in several varieties (mild, medium, sharp, extra-sharp, New York-style, white-, and, Vermont-). New York-style Cheddar is particularly "sharp"/acidic, but tends to physically be somewhat softer than the milder-tasting varieties. Cheddar that does not contain annatto, a nutty spice which gives Cheddar its familiar yellow-orange hue, is frequently labelled "white Cheddar" or "Vermont Cheddar" (regardless of whether it was actually produced there). Vermont has three creameries that produce what is regarded as first-class Cheddar cheeses: the Cabot Creamery, which produces the sixteen-month-old "Private Stock Cheddar", the Grafton Village Company, and Shelburne Farms.[34]

Some cheeses called "Cheddar" are actually flavoured processed cheeses or "cheese foods"; they often bear little resemblance to their natural namesakes. Examples include Easy Cheese: a cheese-food packaged in a pressurized spray can; also, as packs of square, sliced, individually-wrapped, "processed cheese" (sometimes also pasteurized).

Cheddar is one of several products used by the United States Department of Agriculture to track the status of America's overall dairy industry; reports are issued weekly detailing prices and production quantities.

Record cheddars

U.S. President Andrew Jackson once held an open house party at the White House at which he served a 1,400-pound (640 kg) block of Cheddar cheese.[38]

A cheese of Script error: No such module "convert". was produced in Ingersoll, Ontario, in 1866 and exhibited in New York and Britain; it was immortalised in the poem "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing over 7,000 Pounds"[39] by James McIntyre, a Canadian poet.[40]

In 1893, farmers from the town of Perth, Ontario, produced The Mammoth Cheese, which weighed Script error: No such module "convert". for the Chicago World's Fair. It was planned to be exhibited at the Canadian display, but the mammoth cheese fell through the floor and was placed on a reinforced concrete floor in the Agricultural Building. It received the most journalistic attention at the fair and was awarded the bronze medal.[41] A larger, Wisconsin cheese of Script error: No such module "convert". was made for the 1964 New York World's Fair. A cheese this size would use the equivalent of the daily milk production of 16,000 cows.[42]

Oregon members of the Federation of American Cheese-makers created the largest Cheddar cheese in 1989. The cheese weighed Script error: No such module "convert"..[43]

See also


  1. ^ a b Smale, Will (21 August 2006). "Separating the curds from the whey". BBC Radio 4 Open Country. Retrieved 7 August 2007. 
  2. ^ "The Interview – Lactalis McLelland's 'Seriously': driving the Cheddar market". The Grocery Trader. Retrieved 9 May 2007. 
  3. ^ "Cheese Sales and Trends". International Dairy Foods Association. Retrieved 9 November 2010. 
  4. ^ "Cheddar Cheese Production". University of Wisconsin. Retrieved 9 November 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Rajan, Amol (22 September 2009). "The Big Question: If Cheddar cheese is British, why is so much of it coming from abroad?". The Independent (London). Retrieved 9 November 2010. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Brown, Steve; Blackmon, Kate; and Cousins, Paul. Operations management: policy, practice and performance improvement. Butterworth-Heinemann, 2001, pp. 265–266.
  8. ^ "entering a name in the register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications (Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar (PGI))". Official Journal of the European Union. Retrieved 19 March 2014. 
  9. ^ "History". Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  10. ^ Barthélemy, Roland; Sperat-Czar, Arnaud (2003). Guide du fromage: Choisir, reconnaître, goûter 1200 fromages du monde. p. 89. ISBN 978-2-01-236867-5. 
  11. ^ "History of Cheddar Cheese". Icons of England. Retrieved 9 May 2007. 
  12. ^ Heeley, Anne; Mary Vidal (1996). Joseph Harding, Cheddar Cheese-Maker. Glastonbury: Friends of the Abbey Barn. 
  13. ^ Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, 1866-7 volume 1, Aberdeen
  14. ^ Christabel Susan Lowry Orwin, Edith Holt Whetham, "History of British Agriculture, 1846–1914", Agriculture (1964), page 145
  15. ^ "Encyclopedia – Harding, Joseph". Gourmet Britain. Retrieved 23 June 2009. 
  16. ^ Blundel, Richard; Tregear, Angela (17 October 2006). From Artisans to "Factories": The Interpenetration of Craft and Industry in English Cheese-Making 1650–1950. Enterprise and Society. 
  17. ^ "Government Cheddar Cheese". Practically Edible. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  18. ^ Potter, Mich (9 October 2007). "Cool Britannia rules the whey". Toronto Star. Retrieved 4 January 2009. 
  19. ^ Tunick, Michael H. (23 February 2014). "The biggest cheese? Cheddar". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  20. ^ a b Mount, Harry (18 June 2005). "Savvy shopper: Cheddar". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 10 March 2008. 
  21. ^ "Information Sheet – Cheese & Rennet". Vegetarian Society. Retrieved 10 March 2008. 
  22. ^ American Cheeses: The Best Regional, Artisan, and Farmhouse Cheeses, Who ... – Clark Wolf
  23. ^ Kelly Jaggers, Moufflet: More Than 100 Gourmet Muffin Recipes That Rise to Any Occasion, p. 104.
  24. ^ Transactions of the New-York State Agricultural Society for the Year 1864, page 232, volume 14 1865, Albany
  25. ^ Phadungath, Chanokphat (2011). The Efficacy of Sodium Gluconate as a Calcium Lactate Crystal Inhibitor in Cheddar Cheese (Thesis). University of Minnesota. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  26. ^ Feldman, David (1989). When Do Fish Sleep? And Other Imponderables of Everyday Life. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. p. 15. ISBN 0-06-016161-2. 
  27. ^ Blulab sas. "La Fondazione – slow food per la biodiversità – ONLUS". Retrieved 23 June 2009. 
  28. ^ "Presidia Artisan Somerset Cheddar". The Slow Food Foundation. Retrieved 9 May 2007. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Natural". 
  31. ^ a b Manufacturing Taste ·
  32. ^ "Types of Cheddar cheese, Canadian Living". 
  33. ^ "Recipe for Canadian Cheddar cheese soup at Epcot". 
  34. ^ a b Ridgway, Judy. The Cheese Companion. Running Press, 2004, p. 77.
  35. ^ "Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company". 
  36. ^ "EU Protected Food Names Scheme – UK registered names". Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Retrieved 22 July 2009. 
  37. ^ Hale, Beth. "Mature-cheddar-cheese-sales-soar-curry-loving-Britain-gets-taste-stronger-food". The Daily Mail (London). 
  38. ^ "Andrew Jackson". The Presidents of the United States of America. The White House. Retrieved 24 October 2008. 
  39. ^ "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing over 7,000 Pounds". Wikisource. 
  40. ^ "McIntyre, James". University of Toronto Libraries. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  41. ^ McNichol, Susan. "The Story of the Mammoth Cheese". Archives of the Perth Museum. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  42. ^ "Mullins Wisconsin Cheese". Mullins Cheese. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  43. ^ "Cheddar Cheese and Cider Farms". Gorges to visit. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 

External links