CHEDDAR CHEESE

Grimes, William. 2004. Eating Your Worlds. Oxford University Press.
is a kind of firm smooth cheese, originally made in Cheddar in southern England.

Simon, Andre L. 1952. A Concise Encyclopaedia of Gastronomy. Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York.
Cheddar is one of the oldest English cheeses on record. Here is what John Houghton said about it in a letter he wrote on 5th July, 1695: 'Cheddar being warmly seated on the south side of Mendip hills in Somersetshire, and at the foot of them near the town of Axbridge, is exposed only to the south and south-west winds, and has the moors adjacent to it on the south, being a warm and fertile soil for pasturage, whereby Cheddar is rendered famous for Cheese; and it has been long a custom there, as well as in some adjacent parishes, for several neighbours to join their milk together, as occasion requires, to make the said Cheese; which is of a bigger size than ordinary; and contents in goodness (if kept a due time, viz. from two years to five, according to magnitude) with any Cheese of England. The sizes of the same Cheeses are generally from thirty pounds weight to one hundred pounds.' (Husbandry and Trade Improv'd. Vol. I. letter cliii). Some fifty years earlier, in Samuel Hartlib's Hits Legacy of Husbandry, published in London in 1655, Cheddar is described as the best cheese in England, made in different weights from 20 lb to 120 lb.

The larges Cheddar cheese ever made was a monster Cheddar made from the milk of 750 cows by the people of East and West Pennard, in Somersetshire, in the Cheddar district, as a bridal offering to Queen victoria, in 1840. Its weight was 11 cwt., its circumference 9 ft. 4 in., and its depth 20 in. The Queen graciously accepted the present, but the farmers asked that it might be exhibited. Their request was granted, but the Queen declined to have it back after the exhibition. The farmers then quarrelled among themselves, their cheese got into chancery, and it never was heard of any more. In more recent times, at the Wembley Exhibition of 1924, there was a monster New Zealand Cheddar weighing 10 cwt.

Cheddar is a name covering a multitude of cheese which have undergone the 'Cheddaring process'. It was made originally, and there is some Cheddar cheese still being made, in the Cheddar district of Somerset, but the same type of cheese is made also in other parts of England, in Scotland, in Canada, in Australia and New Zealand, and, more recently, in south Africa.

There are two main kinds of Cheddar cheese, the Factory Cheddar and Farmhouse Cheddar.

Factory Cheddar is made of cow's milk wherever and whenever cow's milk happens to be cheap: It is made in as large quantitites as possible and as economically as possible. Its cost is usally half that of the genuine farmhouse Cheddar.

Farmhouse Cheddar is made from May to October, of milk from one and the same herd of cows when they are out at grass. It is made in ones or twos, from day to day, by a cheesemaker who is a specialist at his job. Its texture is close and buttery; its flavor is full and nutty but not strong, varying from fine to finest according to the skill of the cheesemaker and the age of the cheese; its color is the same all through; above all, it will mature, that is to say improve, with time.

Cheddar cheese is made from the evening milk kept overnight and mixed with the morning milk. Rennet is then added and the curd - a bulky, soft, flocculent mass - is formed; it is stirred constantly whilst being heated slowly at the rate of 1oF in every four or five minutes until a temperature of 98 to 102F. is reached and maintained during thwenty to thirty minutes. The curd is then allowed to settle in a vat until it attains the proper degree of formness, and it is also tested for acidity. The heating or cooking of the curd varies according to tradition followed by different farmers and according to weather conditions. As soon as the whey is drained off, the curd is removed form the vat and placed on a cooler over racks covered with a cloth through which more of the whey may readily ooze out. It is turned about and doubled up every half hour until it is ready for milling, salting and pressing, usually one and a half to two hours after being placed on the racks.

Milling consists in putting the curd through the curd-mill in order to extract what whey may still be in it. After it has been milled, the curd should have a smooth, velvety feel and its flavor should be that of ripe cream. It is then salted.

Salting consists in an addition of 2 lb of salt to 100 lb curd, on an average, at the time when the curd comes out of the curd-mill and is broken up and stirred for about 10 minutes so that the air may get at every part of it. It is then pressed.

Pressing consists in placing the milled and salted curd in a chesset or press where it is pressed lightly at first, the pressure being gradually increased to 30 cwt. By the end of three hours. The curd is usually pressed for three days, being turned over and covered with a fresh dry cloth each day. It is then given a bath.

Bathing is the plunging of athe curd, now almost cheese, into water at 140F for one minute. Its object is to obtain a tough, thin rind which will not easily crack. After its bath, the cheese is well greased with pure lard and both its ends are protected with cotton cloth, whilst its sides are strongly bandaged to maintain its shape. It has now only to be cured.

Curing is maturing, or placing the new cheese in the curing-room, a dry, well-ventilated room with a temeprature whenever possible of from 54 to 60F.
A good farmhouse Cheddar must be given at the very least three months to 'set', and it should be given another three to six months to 'mature'. A good farmhouse Cheddar is usually 'ripe' when six months old; 'mellow' when nine months old. Provided, of course that is it properly stored

Cheddar should be stored whole and in a cool, dry and well-ventilated place. It should also be turned over regularlyt, to ensure an even distribution of the butter fat, and it should be well brushed to keep away cheese mites. A properly stored Cheddar has a clean, sound coat, free from mites and dampness, and without any trace of discoloration near the rind.
Adapted from: Dahl, J.O. 1945. Food and Menu Dictionary. The DAHLS, Haviland Road, Stamford, Conn.
is a hard, smooth, yellow American cheese.

 
Modified and compiled for the FOOD RESOURCE, Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University
Updated: Tuesday, July 3, 2012.