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Am I crazy to consider it real cheddar?
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I would never suggest you are crazy...... however, definitions of real cheddar vary. Going back some years it was suggested that real cheddar was only made within 30 miles of Wells (in Somerset, about 8 miles from Cheddar village) or at other times only if the farm could be seen from the summit of Wells cathedral.
These days there is an EU PDO
(Protected Designation of Origin) which allows cheddar made on farms in Dorset, Devon, Somerset & Cornwall using the traditional "cheddaring process" to be called West Country Farmhouse Cheddar.
There has lately been an even stricter definition. The Slow Food movement, together with Neals Yard in London, have created the "Artisan Somerset Cheddar Presidium
". Only 3 dairies (Montgomery, Keen & Westcombe) meet these strict requirements, which are:
- The cheese is only made in Somerset.
- It is made using unpasteurised milk from the farm’s own herd.
- They only use traditional pint starters, a farm made yoghurt-like culture (as opposed to manufactured powdered cultures)
- The curd is set with traditional animal rennet
- Cheeses are made in the cylindrical form and bound in cloth
- They are aged for a minimum of one year.
(I'll be serving 2 of these tomorrow night!)
However, anyone in the world can make cheddar and call it cheddar if they use the cheddaring process as the name is not protected and a lot of American (and some factory made UK cheddar) is coloured orange. The origin of this probably goes back to cheese makers in Leicestershire in the 18th century who found that their local Leicester cheese looked so similar to cheddar that they decided to add some colour from Sunflowers, beet and carrot to make it stand out (these days they use a South American spice called annato).
I am guessing that at some point an American returned home with a lump of Red Leicester (no idea why it is called Red, when it is orange) and told a local cheese maker that in England cheddar is orange.
I understand that the nearest American cheddar to the original English one comes from Vermont or New York. I haven't tried them but I am waiting for one of my customers to one day bring some over for a tasting. I have been told many times that American sharp cheddar is closest to Westcombe or the Organic Godminster (which I think you might have tried before - the one in the burgundy wax).
See you at a tasting soon!