Perhaps the most famous of our native cheeses, Cheddar is now made around the world. Traditional farmhouse examples, such as Montgomery’s and Keen’s, are still made from raw cows’ milk and matured for up to 18 months, giving them a dry, flaky texture and a rich, tangy, often nutty character. Mass-produced examples tend to be aged for much shorter periods, and will have a creamier, moister texture and a milder flavour, but generally melt better when cooked.
A mixture of vegetarian and animal rennets are used, depending on the producer. Cheddar is traditionally made from slabs of curd that are stacked on top of each other, and turned frequently. The pressure of their combined weight squeezes out any remaining whey; the slabs can then be cut into small pieces, salted, and put into moulds for maturing. This process is known as ‘Cheddaring’.
Cheddar comes in a wide variety of styles, from young and fresh to mature and crumbly. Cheeses labelled as West Country Cheddar must be made from cows reared in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset or Somerset using traditional methods. They must contain no colourings, flavourings of preservatives, and must have been matured on the farm where they were made for at least nine months.