What is the best British cheese

Life - Cheddar from England is the world's most popular cheese - how it became number one

Cheddar from England is the world's most popular cheese - how it became number one

During the Second World War the English had forgotten how to make cheese. Now the traditional handicraft is flourishing again. Cheddar, internationally known only as a fast food side dish, has also regained its size.

Unbelievable! Brexitland can be fun these days. And that of all things with cheese. We sit with cheesefreaks at Fish & Chips in the pub in Bath in England and talk about cheddar, the number one cheese producer in the world.

A crazy group in which you know Mühlistei and strengnächäs and can pronounce Gruyère and Epoisses correctly. Cheese is her passion and second profession. There's Nick Bayne, ex-actor from Seattle, who got to know Borough Market next door through a stage at Shakespeare’s Globe in London and fell for cheese. Ruth Raskin, formerly an English teacher in Vicenza, now a cheese manager and cheddar specialist in Bath.

Also: a Londoner, previously a gaucho in South America and infected with the cheese virus through his nanny, and a cheese-addicted psychologist from York. They all have in common their work for The Fine Cheese Company, which is based in Bath and has a shop in London. The company supplies premium cheeses to UK and overseas delis. Cheddar and Stilton are the top sellers.

An American brought the knowledge back

The four learned from the greats in their field. Raskin, for example, acquired her knowledge from the American Joe Schneider, who taught the English the cheddar craft again and created the engraving tone, the first raw milk style tone.

The British forgot how to make traditional cheese during World War II, when milk was rationed on the island and only a few types of cheese such as cheddar were allowed to be produced. “However, pasteurized and industrialized. Most of the small dairies died. The knowledge was lost. From 1952 to 2005, for example, no more raw milk skimmed ester was produced, ”explains Bayne. Red Leicester is an orange, cheddar-like cheese. It looked bleak with normal cheddar too.

Traditional cheese making has been making a comeback in Great Britain since the turn of the millennium. Brave young cheesemakers like Tom Calver from Westcombe in Somerset switched production according to the old tradition. The repentance was worth it. The soil and the mild, humid climate of the hill country in southern England make the milk almost perfect. His cheddar is now one of three origin-protected raw milk cheddar (Westcombe, Montgomery, Hafod) that carry the slow food label and are considered the Rolls Royce of the variety.

From cave cheese to international fast food cheese

The mildly tangy hard cheese has been proven to have been made in Somerset in south-west England since 1170. It has its origins in the village of Cheddar, where it once matured in the stalactite caves of Cheddar Gorge, the largest cave system in Great Britain. What made it the most consumed cheese in the world?

"The spread through the Empire and the worldwide triumph of fast food," says Bayne.

In the English-speaking world, cheese is equated with cheddar.

Because conventional, pasteurized cheddar melts nicely on pizza and toast, in tacos and burgers, without separating. Since the designation of origin is not protected, it is industrially produced and sold all over the world, including Switzerland.

The wax-coated, rindless block cheese earns further points on the popularity scale with its “pleasing, salty-sour, nuanced umami taste,” says Bayne. "It crystallizes pleasantly grainy on the tongue and can be packaged well."

It is not only the shape that is characteristic, but also the color. But this has only been the case for around 300 years, when English cheesemakers began to color the pale yellow cheese orange with the tasteless plant pigment annatto (E160b), the seeds of the South American Orleans bush. This simulated a higher fat content throughout the year, which is actually only provided by the particularly rich spring milk. The trick is also used with other cheeses, such as Red Leicester, Cheshire or Mimolette.

Cheddar, made the old way, does without coloring, wax or block form and tries to “understand the connections between the macroorganisms of the soil and the microflora of the milk”, says Tom Calver, head of Westcombe. For him, that's the alpha and omega of cheese. The trained cook and cheese maker prepares his Traditional Artisan Somerset Cheddars from unpasteurized, untreated, freshly milked milk from his own Holstein cows - with natural rennet and liquid starter cultures.

The so-called cheddaring process is particularly complex. A backbreaking job: the curds are cut by hand into large blocks, stacked and layered several times, and then crushed and salted using a chopping machine in order to squeeze out the whey more strongly. The result is a compact dough without holes, which is wrapped in cheesecloth, filled into cylinder shapes and moistened with lard so that it can breathe during the 11 to 18 months of ripening.

Due to the long ripening, the cheese is almost lactose-free and particularly easy to digest. Raskin believes that old cheddar is not suitable for melting; younger is preferable. But the taste: to take off! It is perfect served with cheesecrackers, pears, nuts or onion chutney. The raw milk cheddars from Somerset regularly win awards.

Raskin and the cheese merchants agree that it is extremely fascinating what you can do with four basics (milk, salt, rennet, starter cultures). They think it's great how many young, ambitious cheesemakers have created something new: Sinodun Hill, for example, a fabulous goat cheese that won the World Cheese Awards 2018, Maida Vale, a semi-hard beer cheese from Guernsey, or Renegade Monk, a sensational blue cheese.

It is noticeable that people from completely different fields, artists, musicians, actors, teachers, lawyers, priests, historians or psychologists switched to the cheese trade.

A Swiss man produces it in organic quality

In the cheese country of Switzerland, the cheddar has a harder standing. And yet it is even produced here: by Walter Grob from the monastery cheese dairy in Engelberg. He was the first to experiment with cheddar after he learned to appreciate it while in Canada. In 2017 he surprised everyone at the Engelberger Winnetou open-air theater with a Canadian snack: French fries, topped with cheddar strips.

Now the young cheese maker is offering the first Swiss biocheddar made from pasteurized milk as well as variants with chilli, garlic and wild herbs. And because it melts so well, the cheddar from central Switzerland is now also included in the fondue: on November 9, 2019, the day of the open cheese cellar in the Engelberg monastery cheese dairy, you can taste it.

Cheddar fact sheet

Cheddar: industrial cow cheese, pasteurized, 48–50% fat, “mild” matured for 2 to 3 months, “medium” for 4 to 6 months and “old” for over 9 months. Various taste nuances (whiskey, port wine, beer, sage, chilli, mustard, etc.) and colors, mostly in block form, also slices, available everywhere, also in Swiss supermarkets

West Country Cheddar Farmhouse: Traditionally handcrafted Cheddar from Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall, protected designation of origin, aged for 9 months, without flavoring, coloring or preservatives.

Traditional Artisan Somerset Cheddar: Slow food raw milk cheddar, like Hafod and Montgomery, handmade, protected designation of origin, no additives, aged 11-18 months. Available online at www.finecheese.co.uk, or in their shops in London and Bath, at Harrod’s or in Switzerland and others. in specialist shops of the partners of www.chaesundco.ch.

Swiss cheddar: smeared cheddar cheese made from pasteurized Swiss (organic) milk, available from the Engelberg monastery cheese dairy, shops in the region or selected Coop branches, www.schaukaeserei-engelberg.ch.