Classic Cheese: Cheddar
This is the first in our series of articles on the world's classic cheeses. We start off with perhaps the most famous of all - Cheddar.
Cheddar was originally developed in the South-West of England, possibly as early as the 12th century although it would have been very different to how we know it now. By the middle of the 17th Century, standardised methods of production had come in to play, much improving the quality, leading to Cheddar becoming a famous and 'in demand' cheese. By the 19th Century its production had spread round the world.
There are lots of cheeses referred to as "cheddar" but a real cheddar has to be made to a specific process* and then further still, for the PDO classification of "West Country Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese" it has to be made in Dorset, Somerset, Devon or Cornwall although the milk can come from farms outside of these areas. Other than that, the PDO isn't too strict, allowing either pasteurised or unpasteurised milk to be used and the cheese to be wrapped in cloth or plastic.
There is another quality mark, although not PDO, that stipulates that an "Artisan Somerset Cheddar" must be made from unpasteurised milk produced on the farm where the cheese is made, use animal rennet and the cheese must be wrapped in cloth while maturing, for a minimum of 11 months. This mark of quality came about from a collaboration between Montgomery's, Keen's and Westcombe, three renowned Somerset Cheddar producers.
*cheddaring is a specific process whereby the whey is extracted from the curds while the curds are kept warm by being cut, turned and stacked on top of one another repeatedly. This process acidifies the curds, changing its texture and giving rise to the unique texture for which "West Country Farmhouse Cheddars" are famous for.