What is cheddar cheese?
Cheddar is one of England’s most famous cheeses - perhaps the most well-known cheese in the Western world and Australia's most popular cheese.
Traditionally made by pressing whey out of the cheese by stacking blocks of curd on top of each other, this makes the blocks knit together. These are re-stacked until the cheese becomes acidified, and stringy. It is then cut into chips (milled), salted and pressed into hoops.
Different types of cheddar cheese styles are aged at various lengths. An aged cheddar, for example, crumbles in the mouth and has a long lingering flavour whereas a mild cheddar slices well for sandwich making.
- Mild cheddar matures for one to three months
- Semi-matured matures for three to six months
- Matured or tasty matures for six to 12 months
- Vintage matures for 12 to 24 months.
Cheddar rinds have a number of varieties:
- Cloth wrapping - the cheese is wrapped in cloth which allows it to breathe and protects the rind, as well as developing different flavour and textural components.
- Rindless cheddar - the cheese matures in a vacuum-sealed bag which prevents moisture loss and rind development.
- Waxed cheddar - a layer of wax prevents surface damage, prevent the cheese from drying out and gives cheese a distinctive appearance.
Types of cheddar cheese
This cheese begins as cheddar, but curds are stopped from knitting together (cheddaring), and then washed with water (colby) or stirred (stirred curd). This creates an open texture. It’s then salted and pressed into hoops to remove as much moisture as possible, wrapped in cloth or vacuum-sealed, then left in temperature controlled rooms to mature.
Created by blending one or more cheddars or other types of cheeses. Club cheddar often contains peppercorns, herbs or sun-dried tomatoes to enhance its flavour and appearance.
A mild, smooth cheese, processed cheddar is a blend of cheddar pasteurised at very high temperatures to prevent further ripening and give it an extended shelf life.
Regional cheddar styles
Cheshire is made in a similar way to cheddar though cheshire is 'textured' not cheddared. In this process, the curd is broken up at regular intervals while being continuously heated. This takes hours, and 'texturing' results in the cheese's unique flaky texture. The cheese is then matured for a minimum of two months. Almost white in colour, cheshire has a moderately firm body with a crumbly slightly granular texture. It is usually produced in a round wheel, either in cloth or waxed.
This cheese is produced by combining the curd made on three different days. As the curds ripened at different times within the cheese, a mottled texture and three-dimensional flavour results. As the cheese is only lightly pressed, the texture is light and crumbly. Lancashire is usually made in large, round wheels that are either waxed or wrapped in cloth.
Made in Gloucestershire from the 16th century, it has now been replaced by double gloucester. It is made with a combination of skimmed and full cream milk, and has a mild, sweet taste.
Double gloucester is made with full cream milk. It has a slightly open, flaky texture and a pale orange colour from the added annatto colouring. It tastes rich and buttery with nutty flavours.
Red leicester evolved from cheshire cheese, and gets its red colour through annatto, a natural vegetable colouring which does not affect the flavour profile. Red Leicester milk is left in the vat with only starter culture for about 30 minutes at the beginning of the cheesemaking process. Subtle and sweet, red leicester improves with age. At its best between six and nine months after making, the cheese has a firm body and close flaky texture.