We love cheddar cheese!
Cheddar cheese is the second-most common cheese in the U.S. (behind mozzarella), and for good reason. If it was a person, it would be your best friend – welcoming, dependable, and fun. At The Big Cheezy, we know that everyone needs a friend. That is why cheddar cheese is foundational to several of our most beloved grilled cheese menu options, including the Cheesy Bet, the Cheez Fries, and our sensational Bacon Cheddar steak burger melt. If you haven’t tried ’em, it’s time!
In today’s CHEEZY History episode, we are going to look at cheddar cheese’s amazing story. It started centuries ago – long enough for people to get divided over its true origins. Some people believe cheddar has its roots in Gaul (modern day France) and made its way to Britain via the Romans. Others believe cheddar cheese came straight out of Britain and the Romans and French had nothing to do with it. Whichever origin story you choose, you’ll still end up in the Somerset region of England, where cheddar has its famous home.
Ye Olde Village of Cheddar
In south west England, there’s a village called Cheddar. It’s on the edge of Cheddar Gorge, which features several caves that provide the perfect humidity and temperature for developing cheese. Cheddar cheese has been produced there since the 12th century. Kings bought their cheese from Cheddar, including King Henry II, who bought over 10,000 pounds of it in 1170. Cheddar cheese showed up in literature, cook books, and instructions for making a proper British home. In fact, cheddar cheese is the most popular cheese in England to this day.
The Harding Revolution
Cheese was made in home or in cooperatives for hundreds of years. However, in the 1800s, a man named Joseph Harding took the actual process of making cheddar cheese to the next level. He designed a revolving breaker, which is a machine that cuts cheese curds up. Cheese makers no longer had to cut up the cheese curds themselves, which meant they saved a lot of time and energy. Even better, Harding realized the importance of hygiene, which made his cheddar incredibly high quality. He and his wife are said to have introduced cheddar cheese to both Scotland and North America. His son brought cheddar cheese and the process for making it to Australia. It is no surprise that Joseph is called the “father of cheddar.”
The Risk of Extinction
During World War II, food rationing forced the British government to create “government cheddar.” It almost killed the cheddar industry. After World War II, there were only about 100 dairies producing cheddar cheese in the entire country, whereas there used to be over 3,000. It took the industry a while to recover, but it made it! The fact that cheddar cheese never lost its popularity was a huge help.
Is “True” Cheddar Cheese a Thing?
Experts claim that only four counties have the right to claim that their cheddar cheese is “true” cheddar cheese: Devon, Somerset, Dorset, and Cornwall. There’s a movement called the “slow food movement,” which champions local foods. Members of this movement go so far to say as any cheese not made in the four counties has no right to be called cheddar. As you can imagine, not everyone agrees on this.
Modern Cheddar Cheese
You can get cheddar cheese to fit any taste these days! From mild, sweet cheddar to sharp, aged cheddar, there is an option for everyone. Cheddar’s natural color is white, but natural coloring has been used to turn it orange since the mid 1800s. It is truly the cheese for everyone.
At The Big Cheezy, we only use the finest cheddar cheese in our creations. We like to think that Joseph Harding would approve. Visit us at any of our three locations and chow down on a grilled cheese sandwich in Louisiana today!