The cheese originates from the village of Cheddar in Somerset, south west England. Cheddar Gorge on the edge of the village contains a number of caves, which provided the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the cheese.
Romans may have brought the recipe to Britain from the Cantal region of France.
The first record of cheddar cheese dates back to the 12th century.
In 1170, King Henry II bought 4,640 kg (10,240 lb) at a farthing per pound. Charles I (1600–1649) also bought cheese from Somerset.
Cheddar cheese traditionally had to be made within 48 km (30 mi) of Wells Cathedral.
Central to the modernisation and standardisation of Cheddar cheese was the 19th-century Somerset dairyman Joseph Harding. For his technical innovations, promotion of dairy hygiene, and volunteer dissemination of modern cheese-making techniques, he has been dubbed “the father of Cheddar cheese”.
Before World War I, more than 3,500 cheese producers were in Britain; fewer than 100 remained after World War II.
During World War II, and for nearly a decade after, most milk in Britain was used for the making of one single kind of cheese nicknamed “Government Cheddar” as part of war economies and rationing. This almost resulted in wiping out all other cheese production in the country.
According to a United States Department of Agriculture researcher, Cheddar cheese is the world’s most popular variety of cheese, and the most studied type of cheese in scientific publications. However, it is the second most popular cheese in the US after Mozzarella.
This cheese is different from other cheeses in how it is made. After the curds are heated, they are cut and stacked. The stacks are then turned periodically and re-stacked. This process is called cheddaring.
Cheddar cheese is aged a minimum of three to six months, preferably one and one-half to two years. Its mellow, rich flavour becomes more intense with age but should not be bitter.
It is natural rind bound in cloth while its color generally ranges from white to pale yellow. However, some cheddars may have a manually added yellow-orange color.
The name “cheddar cheese” is widely used and has no protection within the European Union. Only cheddar produced from local milk within four counties of South West England may use the name “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar”.
Cheddar is the most popular cheese for burgers.
The state of Wisconsin produces the most cheddar cheese in the United States.
Scott of the Antarctic took with him 1600 kg (3500 lb) of cheddar made in Cheddar on his famous expedition in 1901.
Queen Victoria was given a giant wheel of cheese weighing 450 kg (1000 lb) as a wedding gift.
The US President Andrew Jackson once held an open house party at the White House at which he served a 640 kg (1,400 lb) block of Cheddar cheese.
The largest cheese sculpture in the world is mad from cheddar cheese. It weighs 1,415.662 kg (3,121 lb), and was achieved by Erik Acquistapace, Sarah Kaufmann and Kerry Henning (all USA) in Covington, Louisiana, USA, on 11 November 2018. The sculpture was created from a single block of aged cheddar cheese, and featured an alligator in a chef’s hat frying a turkey. After the attempt, the cheese was cut up and sold to the public.