Monday, August 18, 2008

Cheddar

The English Encyclopedia of Practical Cookery says:

Cheddar cheese is one of the kings of cheese; it is pale coloured, mellow, salvy, and, when good, resembling a hazelnut in flavour. The Cheddar principle pervades the whole cheesemaking districts of America, Canada and New Zealand, but no cheese imported into England can equal the Cheddars of Somerset and the West of Scotland.

Named for a village near Bristol where farmer Joseph Harding first manufactured it, the best is still called Farmhouse Cheddar, but in America we have practically none of this. Farmhouse Cheddar must be ripened at least nine months to a mellowness, and little of our American cheese gets as much as that. Back in 1695 John Houghton wrote that it "contended in goodness (if kept from two to five years, according to magnitude) with any cheese in England."

Today it is called "England's second-best cheese," second after Stilton, of course.

In early days a large cheese sufficed for a year or two of family feeding, according to this old note: "A big Cheddar can be kept for two years in excellent condition if kept in a cool room and turned over every other day."

But in old England some were harder to preserve: "In Bath... I asked one lady of the larder how she kept Cheddar cheese. Her eyes twinkled: 'We don't keep cheese; we eats it.'"

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