Block of cheddar cheese
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Cheddar Cheese is the Perfect Ingredient

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A pile of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.Cheddar cheese is one of the most popular types of cheeses of all time and it is absolutely my favorite.

Did you know, the orange color of cheese dates back to the 16th century England, when cheese makers would pass off a lower quality of cheese by adding saffron, then eventually, ANNATTO.

In former times, only affluent Cheddar lovers could afford the expensive full-cream cheeses with its creamy-yellow color.  By adding the coloring agent, cheese makers could take low fat cheese and sell it as full fat cheese.  It is the fat that gives the color to the cheese.

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Achiote seeds from an Achiote tree

ANNATTO is derived from the seeds of the Achiote tree, which is native to tropical regions such as Mexico or Brazil.  It is used to add a yellow-orange color to vegetables and cheese, but typically is tasteless.

Commercial manufactures caught on and started adding it to commercial cheese in part to deal with seasonal variations and in order to have a consistent product.


Early History of Cheese Production

Evidence suggests that mankind has been consuming cheese as far back as they have been herding livestock, 6500-5000 B.C.

Probably the first cheeses eaten by people were sour-milk cheeses, since it was discovered that milk curdles after a while at specific temperatures, (the whey separating from the curds) which dry out further when placed in woven baskets to drain.  Drink containers were often made from the stomachs of livestock.

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Ancient hieroglypics reveal cheese production was practiced in 2500 B.C.  Middle Eastern culture enhanced cheese production long before the Romans discovered their love for cheese.

During Roman and Greek times, cheese was an important means of bartering, a delicacy for feasts and an aphrodisiac.

Cheese production was given a major boost during the Middle Ages and prompted the diversity of cheese, which we still see today.

Between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, it was monasteries that forged the art of cheese-making.  They used copper kettles to make cheese instead of the stone or clay containers which had been common until then.

The aftermath of the Hundred Years’ War, the Peasants’ War and the Thirty Years’ War decimated pastures and farmland, leaving the cheese industry almost extinct.


Industrial Cheese Production

Cheese production underwent a revival during the 1800’s.  Scientist began studying the effects of microorganisms and bacteria during the ripening process.

Industrial cheese production escalated with the use of laboratory-produced starter cultures.  And with the emergence of the railway system, sensitive soft cheese varieties were transported across great distances, making them available all across Europe.

In the western English county of Somerset, cheddar cheese production began in 1170.  Hundreds of farms around the village of Cheddar, produced cheese to their own individual recipes for centuries, until it began to be mass produced during the nineteenth century.

It was about 1700 that European immigrants brought their cows and the art of cheese making to the United States. Today, the U.S. is the world’s largest cheese producer.  John Kraft’s creation of “processed cheese” at the start of the twentieth century established this leading market position.


What is cheddar cheese?

Cheddar is considered a “hard cheese,” because it has a very low water content, which reduces as the ripening of the cheese increases, giving cheddar cheese a long shelf life.
Block of cheddar cheese Organic Sharp Cheddar Cheese on a Cutting Board

During processing the curds are NOT heated, but the ripening process takes place from the outside to the inside, AND from the inside out.

If you like Cheddar Cheese, you will love this recipe:

Wisconsin Cheese Soup

Wisconsin is the largest cheese producer in the United States and where my wonderful in-laws are from.  This recipe is a tribute to my mother-in-law because she would have adored this recipe.
Course Uncategorized
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author JoAnn

Ingredients

  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 1 celery stalk chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 yellow or sweet onion chopped
  • 5 button mushrooms chopped
  • 8 oz chopped cooked ham
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 14.5 oz chicken broth
  • 3 1/2 cups milk Do not use skim
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese - shredded, I do not buy the pre-shredded kind. Buy the block and shred yourself for better flavor.
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  • In a large dutch oven pot, melt butter. Add carrots, celery, onion, bell pepper, mushrooms and ham. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are crisp tender, should be about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Do NOT brown vegetables.
  • Stir in flour and cornstarch. Cook until flour is dissolved and you have formed a rue. This should take about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add broth and cook. Stir constantly, until slightly thickened and flour has been combined.
  • Add milk, paprika, cayenne, and mustard. Stir until ingredients are mixed well. 
  • Turn heat to medium - low!
  • GRADUALLY, stir in cheese - do NOT add cheese all at one time. Stir in a batch, until melted. Then add another batch. Incorporate each batch thoroughly before adding another.
  • To avoid curdling, do NOT allow soup to boil after cheese has been added. 
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve PIPING HOT.

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