See History in the Making
There are many stories (some more believable than others) about how Cheddar cheese originally came into being, but some facts are not in doubt. The land around the village of Cheddar has been at the centre of England's dairy industry since at least the 15th Century with the earliest references to Cheddar Cheese dating from 1170.
With the absence of refrigeration or adequate transport the problem of what to do with surplus milk was solved by turning it into cheese. Cheesemakers discovered that if you pressed (squeezed out moisture with a heavy weight) the fresh curd, the cheese lasted much longer. This method of cheesemaking along with other refinements was perfected in the Cheddar area and so the first authentic Cheddar Cheese was born.
The requirements of a truly authentic Cheddar cheese are:
- It should be made from unpasteurised milk taken from cows grazing in the lush pastures surrounding Cheddar. The pastures influence the milk and the milk determines many of the key characteristics of the cheese
- Made and cheddared by hand using the cheesemaker's skill and experience rather than a mechanised process
- Matured in cloth for up to 18 months to produce a rind and, more importantly, to allow the gradual change in texture of the cheese to take its effect on flavour development. This happens differently in vacuum matured cheese.
Here at The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, we continue to make cheese in this way and are alone in keeping the traditional art of Cheddar making alive in the heart of the village of Cheddar. Our cheese has won many prizes and in the last two years has won awards at the British Cheese Awards and the Royal Bath and West Show.
Some Cheddar Moments
King Henry II purchased 10240 lbs of Cheddar in 1170 at a farthing per lb (that's 4644 kg at a total cost of £10.67!)
When Charles I was on the throne, demand outweighed supply so much that you could only get Cheddar at the King's court, and even then you had to pay before the cheese was made
Scott of the Antarctic took with him 3500 lbs (nearly 1600 kg) of Cheddar made in Cheddar on his famous expedition in 1901
Originally cheese had to be made within 30 miles of Wells Cathedral to be able to be called Cheddar
Queen Victoria was once presented with a drum of lovely Cheddar that weighed 11cwt (558kg), formed from the milk of over 700 cows.