Cheddar cheese is one of the most popular types of cheese around the world. Originally from the village of Cheddar in England, cheddar cheese is now produced globally in many countries. From its unique aging process to its history and nutritional content, cheddar is a fascinating cheese with many surprising facts behind it.
Below are 15 interesting facts about the iconic cheddar cheese that you may not have known:
Interesting Facts About Cheddar
- Cheddar Cheese is Named After the Cheddar Village. Cheddar cheese got its name from the village of Cheddar in Somerset, England, where it was originally made over 800 years ago. The village lies in the Cheddar Gorge, which provides the ideal humidity and temperatures for maturing cheddar.
- It was Once Called “The King of Cheeses. “Back in the 18th century, cheddar cheese was referred to as ‘the king of cheeses’ due to its superior quality and reputation at the time. It was considered England’s most prestigious and important cheese.
- Cheddar Uses Animal Rennet. Traditional cheddar cheese is made using animal rennet, an enzyme complex extracted from the stomach lining of young ruminants like calves and lambs. The rennet coagulates the milk to separate curds from the whey. Most mass-produced cheddar today uses vegetarian rennet instead.
- It Has a Long Aging Process. Unlike most cheeses, cheddar goes through an extensive aging process. It’s kept at cool temperatures from 9 months for mild cheddar, and up to 24 months for very mature or ‘vintage’ cheddar. This aging develops the flavor and texture.
- The Color Varies From White to Orange. Cheddar ranges in color from ivory-white to bright orange. The orange color comes from adding annatto seed to the curds. Originally added as a visual indicator of quality, consumers now expect a rich orange color. White cheddar simply omits the colorant.
- Cheddar Melts Very Well. Unlike Parmesan or Swiss cheese, cheddar has excellent melting properties due to its fat and protein content. It becomes silky smooth when melted, making it a popular choice for dishes like grilled cheese, burgers, mac and cheese, or cheese sauces.
- It Originally Had Many Holes. Traditionally made cheddar cheese has a very open texture with “eyes” or holes throughout it. These holes develop during the aging process as carbon dioxide forms. Many mass-produced cheddars now have fewer holes and denser textures.
- Cheddar is High in Nutrients. Although high in fat, cheddar cheese is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Just one ounce provides a good amount of calcium and protein, as well as important vitamins like A, B12, riboflavin, and selenium. It also contains beneficial probiotic bacteria.
- The First Cheddar Factory Opened in 1870. The first-ever factory for cheddar cheese opened in 1870 in Somerset. Before that, it was only made on farms. The factory system allowed for large-scale production and the rapid growth of the cheddar industry throughout England.
- It Became Popular in America by the Early 1800s.
Cheddar rapidly gained favor in the U.S. after being exported there in the early 1800s. By the 1860s it was the most popular cheese variety and large-scale manufacturing had begun. Even the mouse trap was invented specifically to protect aging cheddar barrels!
- It’s the Most Popular Cheese Variety WorldwideToday cheddar is the number one choice of cheese around the world, accounting for over 1/3 of global cheese consumption. Its versatility, shelf life, and affordable price help contribute to its popularity across cultures.
- The World’s Oldest Cheddar was Over 100 Years Old. In 2019 the world’s oldest cheddar cheese was discovered. The cloth-bound cheddar had been maturing in the Thornby Moor Dairy cellars for over 100 years! It was sampled by a cheese expert and adjudged to be perfectly preserved.
- Cheddar Cheese Must be Made in Cheddar, England. According to EU-protected designation of origin guidelines, only cheddar produced from local milk and aged in the Cheddar Gorge region can officially be called ‘West Country Farmhouse Cheddar’. That accounts for only a tiny percent of cheddar made worldwide.
- It Was Once Used as Money. Back in the Middle Ages, cheddar cheese was so valued in England that it was used as currency for the payment of taxes and rent. The cheeses would be stamped or marked by the landlord and accepted as payment.
- The World’s Largest Cheddar Cheese Was Over 35,000 lbs. In 1988, Perthshire dairy company James Chandler & Son created a gigantic wheel of cheddar weighing over 16 metric tons (35,000 lbs)! It took over 18 months to mature. This epic cheese remains the largest cheddar ever produced.
With its delicious complexity and versatility, it’s easy to see why cheddar became so popular over the centuries! I hope you enjoyed discovering more about this iconic cheese through these 15 fascinating cheddar facts. Which was your favorite fact? Let me know in the comments!