TRADITIONAL HARD CHEESE
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CHEDDAR

We felt Cheddar had to have its own write-up as it is Britain's most famous cheese

The village of Cheddar has been reputed as one of the best cheese making areas for centuries. The lush Somerset levels, known locally as 'Moors', are ideal as pastures having been drained by the monks of Glastonbury Abbey, and the art of making Cheddar has certainly been around since Tudor times, possibly earlier. During the reign of Elizabeth 1 st Thomas Fuller described cheese made at Cheddar as the "best and biggest in England" saying that their worst fault was that they were "so few and so dear hardly to be met with, save at a rich man's table". Many people visited the famous Cheddar Gorge and went home laden with some of the magnificent cheese they had tasted whilst there, leading to it becoming nationally renown. The name of Cheddar has been given to the world now and more of the world's cheese is sold under that name than any other - and unfortunately much of it is of very low quality.

 

        Hard cheesemaking at Curworthy

The real thing, though, is something to be celebrated and indeed has been used in celebration. A giant cheese was made near Glastonbury to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert, as detailed in our write up of Green's Cheddar, and another was made in 1989 to celebrate British Food and Farming. This was made from the milk of eight village farms, was nine feet in circumference and weighed over half a ton! It was displayed during May of that year at The Food Festival in Hyde Park, London.

               AND  WHY  CHEDDAR?

THE HUGE VARIETY OF OTHER 'HARD' CHEESES

The technique of hard cheesemaking is incredibly varied. A degree difference in milk temperature, methods of cutting the curd, the size of the curd, and so many hundreds of other factors can equate to a cheese different in style from the next. The list of variables is endless, thank goodness, as this gives us the wonderful variety of hard cheese made in this country.

Many customers who visit our shops wonder what makes a cheddar 'a cheddar' if the cheese is not made at Cheddar, as indeed there are a few really special artisan cheddars that come from outside that area, not least Quicke's from Newton St Cyres in Devon. Without getting too technical, it basically comes down to how the curd is treated once formed. The cheesemakers use a technique called 'cheddaring' in which they cut the curd into brick sized blocks, and pile them two deep along the length of the cheesemaking vat. The blocks are then turned by hand and piled up again, increasing the number of bricks each time in order to force out any whey. Once free of whey, the curd is milled and salted to stop the production of acid . When the salt has been absorbed the curd is put in moulds in a linen cloth, pressed and then bathed in hot water to soften the skin to produce a good rind. They are then remoulded in a plastic cloth, pressed again and then removed from both to be rubbed with lard and covered with 2 layers of muslin and repressed in the cool of the cheese store. On the third day a third cloth is added and the cheese is placed on a wooden shelf for maturing.

 

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Country Cheeses, Martket Road, Tavistock, Devon PL19 0BW -- Tel: 01822 615035
Country Cheeses, 26 Fore Street, Topsham, Devon -- Tel: 01392 877746
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