Cheddar cheese is a good source of calcium, a key nutrient for healthy bones and teeth, blood clotting, wound healing, and maintaining normal blood pressure. Cheddar cheese is versatile whether it is for breakfast, cheese straws as an appetiser, sprinkled a top a casserole or melted into a dip. Cheddar is the ultimate in versatile cheeses and is delicious in apple pie for dessert. Cheese can be high in calories, saturated fats and sodium. However, 30g of cheddar cheese provides twenty percent of this daily requirement.
Cheddar cheese originates in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset. The term ‘cheddar cheese’ is widely used without the protection of designation of origin in European Union. However, in 2007 a Protected Designation of Origin, ‘West Country Farmhouse Cheddar’, was created and only Cheddar produced from local milk within Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. Manufacturing process that is using traditional methods may use the name. The style and quality of cheeses labelled as cheddar may vary greatly outside of Europe. Some processed cheeses are being packaged as ‘cheddar’ while bearing little resemblance. cheeses of this style are now produced beyond the region and in several countries around the world. Cheddar has been produced since at least the 12th century.
Cheddar is the most popular type of cheese in the United Kingdom. It accounts for 52% of the country’s cheese market. Furthermore, it is the second most popular cheese in USA, behind mozzarella with an average annual consumption of 4.5kg per capita. Cheddar had become Canada’s second-largest export after timber, even being exported to England. James L Kraft grew up on a dairy farm in Ontario before moving to Chicago. Although history cannot wholly lay the decline of cheese craft in Canada at the feet of James Lewis Kraft, it did correspond with the rise of Kraft’s processed cheese empire.
Much of the Cheddar cheese produced in New Zealand is sold young within the country. However, the Anchor dairy company ships New Zealand Cheddars to the UK, where the blocks mature for another year or so. Cheddar cheese accounts for over 55% of the Australian cheese market, with average annual consumption around 14kg per person. This is despite a decline in sales.
Australians love their cheese. It may be sliced white cheese sandwiches in a school lunchbox, or cheese cubes on a platter at a work conference buffet lunch. Think melted cheese on toast or grated for a gratin and a good vintage cheddar holds its own on a specialty cheese platter. Each cheese judged on its flavour, aroma, texture and appearance. Looking for cheese with a sweet, milky flavour, a good balance of salt and acid, a texture that’s firm, close and slightly crumbly, and a lingering aftertaste.
Dairy Australia classifies cheddar as mild when it matures for one to three months and semi-matured cheese matures for three to six months. Cheddar maturing for six to twelve months classifies matured or tasty and vintage matures for twelve to twenty-four months. However, these definitions are not strictly adhered to.
Cultures, special bacteria that converts the milk lactose to lactic acid and enzymes or rennet are the two important ingredients added to milk in cheese making. The species and strains of bacteria used in the starter culture can affect the texture and flavour of the matured cheese. Depending on the desired outcome, some manufacturers use different adjunct cultures to enhance cheddar flavours in a shorter period of time.
While a more mature flavour can be manipulated, an aged cheddar texture can’t be faked. Crunchy calcium lactate crystals in the body of the cheese, a typical feature of aged cheddars, only start to appear after long periods of maturation. Therefore, not all cheddars are real deal. Some are what’s known as ‘club’. Club cheddar is made by milling one or more cheddars and forming them back into a block under pressure. Club cheddars have a smooth, creamy texture, very different from that of traditional cheddar.