Matured Cheddar Cheese: Everything About This Old Favorite
Who doesn’t like to munch on a bit of matured cheddar cheese, no matter the time of day? Whether as a quick morning sandwich, paired with wine and grapes, melted on a slice of toast or tasting a rich and strong cheddar with coffee for dessert, it is incredibly versatile. It is such a staple of people’s diet, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, that many might not be aware of how it’s made, where it comes from and the different kinds available.
Matured Cheddar Cheese: How is it Made?
While it is usually produced from cow milk, or sheep, goat milk can also do the trick. It involves a process called “cheddaring” where after being heated, the curd is kneaded with salt and then cut into cubes before being stacked and aged. To be considered vintage, this cheese needs to be matured for at least fifteen months. Of course, there are different aging techniques which give each cheese a specific character, such as smoking it or using all kinds of wood barrels to age it in.
The origin of the Cheddar Cheese
We can retrace the origins of cheddar cheese to the 12th century in the village of Cheddar in South-West England. It is assumed that the Romans brought the recipe of cheddar to Britain from the Cantal region of France. Actually, a record exists of King Henry II purchasing, in 1170, a whopping 10,240lbs of cheddar cheese! Later on, in the 19th century, an English dairyman named Joseph Harding helped standardize and modernize its production, and helped introduce it to Scotland and North America. Finally, during the Second World War, most of the milk in Britain was used to make this single kind of cheese. That’s why it got the name: “Government Cheddar”. Because of this, production of cheddar cheese surpassed that of all other kinds of cheeses, and it is now one of the most popular cheeses in the UK and in the entire world.
Clothbound cheddar from Farmhouse Natural Cheeses
Types of Matured Cheddar Cheese
Now, let’s go through the different kinds of matured cheese:
- Farmhouse cheddar, a particularly creamy cheese with both savory and naturally sweet notes. For example, you can pick up some Knockanore Oakwood smoked cheddar, a farmhouse-style cheddar made with unpasteurized raw milk, wood smoked and imported from Knockanore, Ireland, at the Bulk Cheese Warehouse in Saskatoon.
- Bandage-wrapped cheddar: During this traditional aging process, this type of cheddar cheese is wrapped in a cheesecloth responsible for protecting the outside part of the cheese, while still allowing air in it, creating a natural rind beneath the cloth. The cloth eventually becomes thick and hard and usually remains on the cheddar cheese when it is sold. In Agassiz, BC, Farmhouse Natural Cheeses makes their own clothbound cheddar with fresh cow milk, which makes for a particularly flavorful taste. At the Pantry Fine Cheese in Toronto, they offer a clothbound cheddar aged at least twelve months, made with cow milk from Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. You can taste the salty air and iron-rich soil of PEI with every bite of this amazing cheddar.
Orange cheddar at Les Blancs d’Arcadie
- Orange Cheddar: Most people probably know it for its orange color that comes from annatto, a vegetable extract of achiote seeds. This type of cheese is milder and smoother than other cheddars, which can please seasoned veterans just like those who prefer softer tastes. You can find many orange cheddars, such as the Black Diamond Marble Cheddar, at most supermarkets and cheese stores, and at Les Blancs d’Arcadie in New Brunswick.
Strong l’Île-aux-Grues cheddar at La Fromagerie Hamel
Cheese Maturity Time
Some cheddar can be aged for a few months, others for a few years. The longer they are aged, the more its flavor becomes intense, strong, and full. There are many ways to designate them by their age, the most commonly found names being mild, medium and strong. We can also use the terms sharp, extra sharp and premium, the latter designating cheeses whose ages go from two to five years. A plethora of aged cheddars can be found at specialized cheese stores, such as La Fromagerie Hamel that, for example, offers cheddars made in l’Île-aux-Grues, Quebec, available in medium-strong, strong and extra-strong. In most Atlantic Superstores across the Maritimes, you can find Dairy Isle old cheddar and sharp white cheddar, each one deliciously aged and with a sharp kick, just like the extra old cheddar available in Wilton Cheese Factory in Odessa, Ontario.
Cheddar’s Health Benefits
As well as being delicious, cheddar cheese has many health benefits. It is rich in protein, calcium, minerals and vitamins. For this reason, cheese is an essential component of a healthy diet. Also, if you’re keeping a vegetarian diet, worry not: there are now dozens of vegetarian cheeses available so you can enjoy this delicious treat while staying on track with your diet. There are dairy-free cheddars, blue cheeses, mozzarellas, and many other kinds!
Pairing cheeses is an art in itself. To newcomers, it can seem convoluted and intimidating, and that’s why we’re here to give you easy pairing tips:
- Strong cheddar cheese and cabernet sauvignon red wine go great together. Their respective bold flavours perfectly complement each other, while a strong cheddar would drown out the taste of a softer wine.
- Fatty, creamy taste of cheese matches well with dry wine.
- Other alcohol-based drink choices to pair with matured cheddar cheese are strong ales, some apple cider or other apple-flavoured liqueurs, as well as chardonnays.
- In terms of desserts, cheddar cheese and apple pie is a classic duo, and we highly recommend it. However, did you ever consider trying it next to a lemon tart, or even, if you’re feeling ambitious, putting the cheddar on top of the tart? You might be surprised that the strong, salty cheddar taste goes really well with the sweet, tangy flavours of lemon. Try it out!
We hope you enjoyed Dessert Advisor’s deep dive into the topic of matured cheddar cheese. Has it awakened your appetite for a strong, full-flavoured slice of cheese? Check out these tips to enjoy all that this dairy classic has to offer! Don’t forget to consult our selections of cheeses and desserts for the best culinary experience.