Cheddar cheese is a relatively hard yellow to off-white, and sometimes sharp-tasting cheese originally made in the English village of Cheddar, in Somerset. Cheddar cheese is the most popular cheese in the United Kingdom, accounting for 51% of the country's Â£1.9 billion annual cheese market.
Cheddar cheese has been widely imitated, both in the United Kingdom and in other countries, including Ireland, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Iceland. In most countries Cheddar cheese, in its various forms, is readily available, ranging from mild lower-fat cheeses to the more mature higher-fat and sharper cheeses. Only cheese produced and sourced in the English counties of Somerset, Devon, Dorset, and Cornwall may be given the Protected Designation of Origin name ``West Country Farmhouse Cheddar``.//
Cheddar cheese has been produced since at least 1170. A pipe roll of King Henry II from that year records the purchase of 10,420 lb at a farthing per pound (Â£3 per ton). One suggestion is that Romans brought the recipe to Britain from the Cantal region of France, where it was adapted. Cheddar cheese traditionally had to be made within 30 miles (48 km) of Wells Cathedral.
Central to the modernisation and standardisation of Cheddar cheese was the nineteenth century Somerset dairyman Joseph Harding. For his technical developments, promotion of dairy hygiene and unremunerated propagation of modern cheese-making techniques he has been described as the father of Cheddar cheese. Harding introduced new equipment into the process of cheese making, including his ``revolving breaker`` for curd cutting, saving much manual effort. 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', He and his wife were behind the introduction of the cheese into Scotland and North America. Joseph Harding's son, Henry Harding, was responsible for introducing Cheddar cheese production to Australia.
During the Second World War 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. This nearly 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, while fewer than 100 remained after the Second World War.
In July 2009, the West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers launched a wedge of Cheddar to the edge of space; although GPS contact was lost with the space vehicle (a balloon) the wedge was later recovered in good condition.
Cheddaring refers to an additional step in the production of Cheddar-style cheese where, after heating, the curd is kneaded with salt, then is cut into cubes to drain the whey, then stacked and turned. 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 production of other hard cheese varieties in other regions 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.Cheddar cheese maturing in the caves at Cheddar Gorge
The curds and whey are separated using rennet, an enzyme complex normally produced from the stomachs of new-born calves (in vegetarian cheeses bacterial, yeast or mould derived chymosin is used).
Cheddar style cheeses are produced in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, United States of America, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia (where processed cheese varieties are often called tasty cheese), Sweden, Belgium, and the Netherlands. These varieties of cheese can be split in two categories, artisanal cheese and industrial cheese. Artisan varieties of Cheddar develop diverse and strong flavour over time. Industrial cheese's flavour varies significantly enough that food packaging will usually indicate a strength using adjectives such as mild, medium, strong, tasty, sharp, extra sharp, mature, old, or vintage, which may indicate the maturation period, or food additives used to enhance the flavour.
The name 'Cheddar cheese' has become widely used internationally, and does not currently have a protected designation of origin (PDO). However, the European Union recognises West Country Farmhouse Cheddar as a PDO. To meet this standard the cheese must be made in the traditional manner, using local ingredients, in one of four designated West Country counties: Somerset, Devon, Dorset, or Cornwall.
The Slow Food Movement, encouraged and advised by