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THE HERITAGE INGREDIENT: CHEDDAR CHEESE

With a good chunk of cheddar in your fridge, you’re never far away from a satisfying snack and you have the beginnings of a great meal. So says Debbie Major, who celebrates the versatility of a British classic

RECIPES AND FOOD STYLING DEBBIE MAJOR PHOTOGRAPHS ANDREW MONTGOMERY STYLING OLIVIA WARDLE

“Raw with an apple or a good chutney, melted in a toastie with ham, or grated into a white sauce for cauliflower or macaroni, cheddar is such a versatile cheese.

It’s a proper heritage ingredient too. The area around the Mendip Hills near Cheddar Gorge in Somerset was the centre of cheddar production from the 16th century and probably for centuries before. Local caves provided ideal conditions for maturing cheese and they’re still in use today.

Cheddar is a hard, full-fat cow’s milk cheese. Firm yet yielding, often smooth but occasionally more crumbly, it can be mild, strong or even sharp, with a nutty, sweet taste from the milk.

What sets it apart from other hard cheeses is the step in the process known as ‘cheddaring’, in which slabs of curd are turned and piled on top of each other to help drain off the whey. But cheddar’s name has never been protected and given a DO (Designation of Origin), so sadly there are tonnes of tasteless cheese produced around the world carrying the name cheddar.

However, only cheeses made within the four counties of southwest England (Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall) are allowed to use the name West Country Farmhouse Cheddar. It must be made from local milk, using traditional techniques (animal rennet and hand cheddaring) and aged a minimum nine months.

As the cheese matures, the flavour becomes stronger. Larger dairies sell ‘mild’ cheddar at 3 months, ‘medium’ at 5-6 months, ‘mature’ at 9 months, ‘extra mature’ at 15 months and ‘vintage’ at 18 months or more. It’s best to buy from a reputable producer or a cheesemonger.

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About Delicious Magazine

The new September issue of delicious. sees out the summer with healthy recipes from the sunny Med and dishes that keep the holiday feeling going. Diana Henry shares her simple cooking philosophy, Simon Hulstone adapts Michelin-star cooking for the home kitchen and we get the gossip and recipes from the Great British Bake Off stars. Plus, improve your cooking with a bagel masterclass, our sweet pastry guide and all our invaluable tips and advice.
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