Cheddar cheese is one of the most popular cheeses in the world and the #1 cheese in its home country of United Kingdom where it is accounted for 51% of country’s cheese market. Created over 8 centuries ago in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset, this pale yellow and hard cheese made from cows milk is today viewed as one of the best cheeses in the world.
Many historians believe that true origins of cheddar cheese come from Roman empire whose conquest of south England was responsible for spreading of many technologies, including cheese recipes from the Cantal region of France. The reason why Cheddar village and surrounding settlements became so popular place for making cheese is the cave complex near the village that had perfect combination of internal temperature and moisture for long-term maturing of hard cheeses. The first records of cheeses produced at the area of Cheddar village comes from late 12th century, with record of the King Henry II describing purchase of more than 4.5 tons of cheese. Similar record was also saved form King Charles I whose reign was between 1600 and 1649.
19th century production in the region of Cheddar village was important not only because of the popularization of cheese across England, but also standardization of cheese manufacturing procedures that was spearheaded by the Somerset dairyman Joseph Harding. He introduced new technical and hygienic innovations that enabled much easier production of not only cheddar cheese, but also many other cheese types all around the world. He introduced "revolving breaker” for curd cutting that sped up the process of cheese making, and promoted cheddar cheese in North America, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand.
Production of Cheddar cheese skyrocketed in England during World War 2 not because of the good circumstances, but because of the need of English government to better stockpile their milk. Majority of milk was transformed into what was called “government cheddar” that was rationed to the people all around the country. This had an unfortunate effect of decimating local production of cheddar cheese in England, with 3,400 of cheese producers being shut down and fewer than 100 remaining after war was over.
Modern production of cheddar is widespread all around the world, with largest production centers being located in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and United States (Wisconsin, California, Idaho, New York, Vermont, Oregon, Texas and Oklahoma). In 2008 UK produced 262,000 tonnes of cheddar cheese, while two years later in 2010 United States produced 1,466,640 tonnes.
Cheddar cheese can be produced in many varieties, with aging period that can last between 3 and 18 months.