We continue our exploration of different cheeses with a look at cheddar cheese.
What is Cheddar cheese?
A hard, aged cheese that is off-white or sometimes yellow in color. It originates in Somerset in the UK. There, it is aged in the caves of the Cheddar Gorge as they have a good level of humidity and the right temperature.
The curds and whey are separated. After heating, the curds are kneaded with salt and then cut into cubes before being stacked. Extra-mature cheddar must be aged for at least 15 months.
Our Canadian Fine Aged Cheddar is aged for a longer period of time giving it a much stronger, sharper flavor.
We also sell White and Orange Cheddar. Orange Cheddar is traditional white cheddar with Annatto, an extract from the tropical achiote tree, and oleoresin paprika added. These added ingredients give the orange cheddar its orange color and a milder flavor.
How does it taste?
It has a sharp taste that develops as it ages. It is also creamy and sometimes milky in flavor. When aged 2 to 3 months, the cheddar remains mild and is better for offering texture or a little seasoning to a dish. It becomes sharp when it has been aged for around 6 months and is extra-sharp from around 1 year of aging.
How should I eat it?
As cheddar is a classic cheese, it can be used almost anywhere. Grate it over pasta, pizza or roasted vegetables. It is particularly good in autumnal and winter dishes for adding extra flavor alongside stews and casseroles.
It melts well so it is a great option for grilled cheese. Add it to any sandwich with a good helping of chutney or pickles. The sharp flavors marry together well for an excellent lunch or snack. It also works well with other savory flavors such as harissa, caramelized onions, or meats such as ham and salami.
The texture makes it excellent for mixing into different ingredients such as pastry or bread doughs. This imparts the flavor of the cheese and gives some melted, crispy elements to the finished dish.
For the simplest of dishes, create a plate with cheese, hams, fruits such as apples and grapes, crackers, and crusty bread. This can make a fantastic lunch or a quick and easy dinner. Add a glass of wine on the side for a real treat.
What should I drink it with?
The sharp and pungent flavor of Cheddar pairs well with light, fruity red wines such as Zinfandel, Syrah, and Merlot. White wine lovers can enjoy Riesling, Pinot Gris, or Sauvignon Blanc with their cheese as they have enough flavor to stand up to the tanginess of the cheese. You could also enjoy a slice of cheddar with a Port, Madeira, or Brandy.
What is your favorite way to enjoy Cheddar cheese? Let us know in the comments!
Who doesn’t like eating cheese? As a culture with a strong, burning passion for food, at or near the top of this list, we often find cheese. Cheese is an overlooked, and often underappreciated food. In can be integrated into countless dishes, or it can be used as a topper for so many more dishes, salads and even desserts. We, as a civilization, never seem to run out of ideas for our uses of cheese. Every day, it seems that culinary experts and chefs around the world are experimenting with different cheeses and dishes in their efforts to create new dishes whose main attraction is cheese, in some way, shape or form.
Let’s taker a gander at some of the more ingenious creations in which cheese is used, or hidden, for that matter. Now, keep in mind, some of these dishes or cheese concealments require a “think outside of the box” approach…
When making meatballs, add some “umpf” to it by integrated some of your favorite cheese when rolling the meat to form meatballs. As the cheese meets the heat when cooking, the cheese will expand and will add an extraordinary flavor to an already delicious meatball.
Ham, Egg and Cheese Crepe
- Make your pancake, as you normally would… the thinner, the better in the case of this recipe.
- When the underside is nearly cooked, place a slice of ham on top, topped off with some of your favorite cheese.
- Fold the sides into to make a square, or as close as you can get to one.
- Break your egg into the space left… leave sunny-side up.
- Squish the sides down with your spatula to seal as the cheese melts.
- Cook for 3 or 4 minutes until the egg is turning white.
- Pop under the grill for a further 2 or 3 minutes until the yolk is just starting to cook, or however you like it. (Although, if you like it any way other than runny you’re way crazy.)
A Cheesy Pie Crust… literally
Making a pie crust with cheddar cheese baked directly into the crust gives it an entirely new dimension of flavor. Try baking an Apple Pie with a cheddar cheese infused crust. Goodness, that sounds absolutely amazing just thinking about it.
For the Gluten-Free
For those who are in search of gluten-free foods, try using cheese as bread crumbs over zucchini. If this peaks your interest, try this recipe for starters… Parmesan Baked Zucchini.
- 4 zucchini, quartered lengthwise
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Basil
- 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 tablespoon chopped fresh Parsley leaves
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a cooling rack with a nonstick spray such as Crisco and place on a baking sheet.
- In a bowl, combine the following: Parmesan, Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Garlic Powder, salt and pepper. Taste to determine if this meets desired taste.
- Place the quartered zucchini onto prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle olive oil and as well as Parmesan mixture.
- Place into oven and bake until tender. This usually takes ~ 15 minutes. Then broil for around 2-3 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.
- Serve immediately. Garnished if that is your thing…
Cheese-Infused Loaf of Bread
This is quite the old-fashioned move, but as they say, “an oldie but goodie” and this no doubt falls in this league. When baking a loaf of bread, step up your culinary game and inject a concoction into the center of the bread; a concoction of your favorite cheese, spices, herbs, etc. Bake and enjoy!
More Cheese… More Bread
With the Cheese-Infused Bread in the back of your mind, try this cheese creation on for size. The Bread Bowl of Cheese is another cheese creation, or should I say, masterpiece, that is in yet another league of its own. Try this recipe…
- 4 bread rolls (soft or crusty)
- 4 small slices of ham, or 2 big ones cut in half
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cut tops off the bread rolls.
- Scoop out the center of each bread roll and reserve. Although this can be quite an intricate step in the overall recipe, try to keep your cuts and scoops nice and neat.
- Line the bread bowl with a layer of ham, using a single slice or multiple slices as needed.
- Crack in an egg. This is the part of the recipe where Humpty Dumpty came to mind with me.
- Top each with 2 tablespoons of Mozzarella and a sprinkle of parsley, if desired.
- Put the tops back on each roll. Wrap with foil and place in oven to bake for ~10 to 15 minutes, making certain to check periodically, ideally, in 10 minute intervals.
- 10 minutes = very runny yolks. 15 minutes = firm just cooked yolks. 15 minutes + = very cooked yolks.
- Remove from oven, unwrap, serve immediately and enjoy heaven in a bowl.
September 5th marked a day of celebration for America, and perhaps, even much of the world… because who doesn’t like pizza and cheese or both? Unknown to many is that September 5th is National Cheese Pizza Day. You know with the birth of smartphones and mobile apps came the phrase “…there’s an app for that”, well in similar light, if you love a food or, in this case, a combination of foods, a new axiom may take shape here, “…there might just be ‘National’ day for that”. A day that puts the focus of pizza and cheese, two delicious foods in and of themselves, but when together, spark a whole new revelation of culinary marvel… who would not love a day just to celebrate such a marvel? The answer should be simple… no one.
There has been an age-old question that continues to make the mind wonder and wander, that is… “Is there a perfect cheese to put on pizza?” Dr. Bryony James, a scientist whose research centers on food microstructure and food material science in New Zealand at the University of Auckland dove right in to find an answer the this question. Dr. James’ team of scientists study the building blocks of food and even experiment with structural composition of various foods that can influence its functionality. Ideally, their line of scientific research would allow them to develop a potential hypothesis for such an experiment. As the team began initial studies of the “best cheese for pizza”, they already knew that, historically, Mozzarella was highly favored and the most commonly used cheese for pizza topping.
Among countless scientific trials and experiments, the team researched cheese based on browning and blistering. These variable were designated as focuses of research as they were found to be the most looked upon features by consumers. Examining the properties, features and characteristics of cheese could potentially lead to further discoveries of the ideal cheese or in some cases, the ideal combination of cheeses to use on pizza. Other cheeses the group extended their research to was Cheddar, Colby, Emmental, Gruyere and Provolone. The actual experimentation itself was conducted by state-of-the-art technology, as opposed to human hands. As human judgment would have been idea over the work of a machine, it would have been far more time-consuming and brought the idea of a “bias” trial or opinions when bringing human emotion and interaction into the picture.
Of the properties of cheese that were measured for this experiment, smell, texture, melting properties and color were at the forefront. Researched revealed that some cheeses like Cheddar did not produce a favorable level of blistering while the likes of Gruyere did not properly brown after melting, which can be attributed to the oil content within the cheese. The results clearly indicated that although Mozzarella might be the traditional favorite cheese topper for pizzas, there might not be that “perfect” cheese or combination of cheeses, as each cheese’s characteristics and properties, when undergoing melting, might be desirable for one consumer, but desirable for another.
The most widely eaten cheese on this planet, Cheddar originated in Somerset, England around the late 12th Century and took its name from the Gorge or caves in the town of Cheddar that were used to store the cheese. The constant temperature and humidity of the caves provided a perfect environment for maturing the cheese. The town also gave its name to a unique part of the cheese-making process – known as “Cheddaring” – which is the process of turning the slabs of curd and piling them on top of each other in a controlled way to help drain the whey.It also stretches the curd. The process helps to create a harder cheese with firm body and is unique to Cheddar making.
Cheddar making in Somerset goes back more than 800 years with records from the King of England’s accounts (the so-called “Great Roll of the Pipe”) noting that in 1170 the King purchased 10,240 lbs (4.6 tonnes) of Cheddar cheese at a cost of a farthing a pound. The king at the time- Henry II – declared Cheddar cheese to be the best in Britain and his son Prince John (who reigned between 1199 and 1216) clearly thought the same as there are records of him continuing to buy the cheese for the great Royal banquets. In the reign of Charles 1 (1625 to 1649) parliamentary records show that the cheese made in Cheddar was sold before it was even made and indeed was only available at the court.
In 1724 Daniel Defoe devoted a chapter to Cheddar and its cheese in his book “A tour of the Islands of Great Britain”.
Today Cheddar cheese is still made in Somerset but also all over the world. It is made on farms in the West Country and 14 makers are licensed to use the EU Protected Designation of Origin “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar”. The cheese must be made on a farm in the four counties of Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset from locally produced milk and using traditional Cheddar making techniques – including hand Cheddaring. West Country Farmhouse Cheddar is matured in the region and sold at a minimum age of 9 months and is subject to regular grading throughout its life.
Larger dairies throughout the UK also make Cheddar and this is sold at different ages. Mild Cheddar is typically sold at about 3 months of age; medium matured Cheddar at 5 to 6 months; mature Cheddar at around 9 months, Extra Mature at around 15 months and Vintage at 18 months or more.
As Cheddar matures so its taste develops from the young creamy taste of mild Cheddar to complex, lasting, slightly nutty flavours of mature Cheddar and beyond.
Major brands include Cathedral City, Pilgrims Choice, Colliers and Seriously Strong whilst many supermarkets will now include the creamery or the farm in which the cheese was made. For example, Davidstow, Taw Valley, Lake District, Caledonian Pembrokeshire, Lockerbie and Isle of Man in the case of major creameries and Alvis, Gould, Denhay, Parkham, Brue Farm, Quickes, Goodwood Estate or Keens, in the case of farm made cheeses. Cheddar is made in most areas of the country often as a balancing cheese when milk supply from a farm peaks.
Traditionally made Farmhouse varieties, which may be cloth bound, become significantly harder as they age; the texture becomes drier and the flavours generally more complex than their creamery counterparts. Some of the farm-made Cheddar uses unpasteurised (raw) milk which will tend to have rather more complex and stronger flavours, whilst others will use pasteurised milk. Cheese flavour will also vary depending on the time of year it was made and what the cows may have been eating at that time.
Creamery made Cheddar is increasingly being sold at a longer age in response to changing consumer tastes for tastier cheese. These more mature (extra mature or vintage) Cheddars often have a characteristic sweet, nutty flavour with a very long finish. Mild Cheddar remains popular as an every day cheese and is characterised by a gentle, creamy flavour and has the added advantage of slicing easily.
So whatever your preference there will be a Cheddar for you depending on its age, how it was made, where it was made and the time of year that it was made.
Tips when buying
If you can, try before you buy because every Cheddar will be slightly different. Find the one that you like and try to remember its name and its age (as defined by mild, medium mature etc). For a difference try one of the smoked or smoke flavoured Cheddars which many cheese shops now offer or the blended Cheddars where ingredients such as herbs, spices, Marmite© or fruits may have been blended with the matured cheese to produce a whole range of different taste sensations.
Cheddar and Bacon Stuffed Chicken Breasts
So it’s about the end of the day at work and you’re struggling to come up with ideas of what to make for dinner. Not only that, but you also want to try to deviate away from the norm and let your taste buds reach a new level of extreme tastiness. Here is a recipe that will truly satisfy those taste buds without breaking the wallet and with simple, easy to find ingredients at the grocery store.
Cheddar-And-Bacon-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
1) 6 slices bacon
2) 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3) Salt and pepper
4) 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, if desired
5) 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Cook bacon on stove in oven-safe skillet until cooked but not crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Flatten chicken breasts to about 1/4- to 1/8-inch thickness, and lightly season with salt and pepper.
Spread a teaspoon of Dijon mustard on each chicken breast, if desired.
Lay three pieces of bacon on each chicken breast, and top the bacon with the cheddar cheese.
Roll up each chicken breast, being careful to keep the bacon and cheddar tucked inside, and secure each with toothpicks.
Place the chicken rollups back in the pan with bacon grease and cook on the stove over medium heat, turning frequently, just to brown all sides.
Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Feel free to baste the chicken with some of the bacon grease while it’s baking. (I warned you this was not diet food.)
Serve hot, preferably with some of these pretzel rolls.