Cheddar cheese gets its name from the English village of Cheddar, where it was originally made.

The word "Cheddar" also refers to a technique used in cheesemaking. Cheddaring involves slicing the solid milk curd into slabs, which are then piled on top of each other in order to squeeze out the liquid whey. This process of slicing and piling the curd is repeated at regular intervals for about 90 minutes. In addition to removing air and moisture from the cheese, it also smooths out the texture and allows microorganisms in the curd to produce more lactic acid, which gives Cheddar cheese its distinct tart flavor. After cheddaring, the cheese is placed in molds and aged.

Let's use capitalization to clarify: there is cheddar and there is Cheddar. The first, cheddar, is the hideous soapy plastic muck that you buy very cheap in supermarkets all over the world, and which is made in the country where it's bought. Its only known use is for melting, in student households, and possibly to keep penurious old ladies from dying of protein deprivation. This cheddar is not food, it is a thing to put in your stomach to dull the need for food.

Then there is Cheddar, the exquisitely delicious rich hard cheese, slightly veined with mould, made in the farms about the Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, and traditionally matured in the caves, where the temperature is a constant 7°C. A good farmhouse Cheddar is one of the best of all cheeses. I have seriously wondered the mould is mildly hallucinogenic or more accurately euphoria-genic, whatever the correct word for that is.

Cheddar has been esteemed for almost a thousand years. A Pipe Roll of Henry II records the purchase of 10 240 lb at a farthing a pound. The king called it the best cheese in England. In the reign of Charles I the entire supply was bought by the royal court before it was made.

The village of Cheddar is at one end of the Cheddar Gorge, a spectacular area in the Mendip Hills, famous for its cave system, one of the tourist highlights of that part of Britain.

One of the caves, Gough's Cave, contains an underground river called the Cheddar Yeo. Not only were the caves inhabited for 40 000 years, but a burial dating from 9 000 years ago had its skeleton ("Cheddar Man", discovered in 1903) so well preserved that DNA could be extracted, and compared with modern locals. Cheddar Man has close relatives living in the Cheddar area to this day.

Mature farmhouse Cheddar is pale yellow, has small cracks, and a typical waxy appearance and taste, that contrasts beautifully with the sharp elements in its taste.

The taste of good Cheddar is unique, and to some, ranks among of the simple delights of life. Meanwhile, the same type of cheese can be found elsewhere: Cantal in particular is very similar.

Ched"dar (?), a.

Of or pertaining to, or made at, Cheddar, in England; as, Cheddar cheese.


© Webster 1913.

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