Cheddar cheese - England's glory

cheese muffin hero

Cheddar is the most famous of the UK's hard cheeses, and it has traditionally had to be made within 30 miles of Wells cathedral. So good is it that the technique has travelled across the world, bearing the Somerset place name with it. There is even a verb: cheddaring is the unique process of kneading the curds with salt after they have been heated.

Henry II was partial to Cheddar. His 1170 shopping list shows 10,0420 lbs purchased at a farthing a pound. That prices 12th century Cheddar at £3 a ton. In the 19th century, Somerset dairyman Joseph Harding and his family were responsible for introducing the famous cheese to the world. He described it perfectly as ‘close and firm in texture, yet mellow in character or quality; it is rich with a tendency to melt in the mouth, the flavour full and fine, approaching to that of a hazelnut'. Cheese-making still runs in the blood of farmers in the West Country, and Tesco sources a variety of styles and strengths directly from the traditional area.

There can hardly be a fridge in the UK that does not contain a hunk of Cheddar cheese, all ready for nibbling, grating, and melting; the inspiration for any number of comforting dishes. If you have Cheddar in the fridge, and staples in the store cupboard and freezer, then a quick tasty nutritious supper is not far away. Macaroni cheese can be as simple as pasta in cheese sauce, or more complex with ham and leeks. If you have eggs, then any number of delicious tortilla or Spanish omelette recipes are a quick and easy win. A perfect way to use up leftover potatoes, you can just cube them and saute with other vegetables such as onions and peppers in a frying pan, add beaten eggs and seasoning. Then just sprinkle  grated Cheddar on top and pop under the grill to puff up once the base is firmed up on the stove top.

It's always worth whizzing up dried out bread in your food processor, and keeping the breadcrumbs in a jar. Mix a handful with grated Cheddar, scatter over almost any cooked vegetables and grill for a crunchy golden topping. And consider the joys of savoury muffins with olives or with ham or with cornmeal for texture, for a picnic or even breakfast. There's always the classic cheese sandwich. As it's harvest time and there are produce bargains to be had, try making home-made chutney to bring out the flavour of Cheddar between two pieces of crunchy baguette.

Just remember to take your chosen Cheddar out of the fridge to come up to room temperature before eating, to develop the rich nutty flavour.

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