Cheddar was one of the US's first favorite cheeses, and it only continues to grow in popularity. Today, we have a wide variety of cheddar at our fingertips, and each one is as unique as the landscapes on which the animals are grazing. While cheddar originated in Somerset, England (yes, in the village of Cheddar!), the cheesemaking style has since spread all over the world and is beloved by many.
So if it isn't the place of origin, then what makes cheddar, cheddar? The answer is partly in the process - appropriately called "cheddaring". During cheddaring, the curds are cut into slabs and continuously stacked on top of each other on the sides of the vat. This encourages whey expulsion (moisture loss), which also results in the signature texture of many cheddars - crumbly, slightly granular, with visible curds.
With the number of different cheddars on the market these days, choosing the right one for your needs can be overwhelming! Block or clothbound, American or English style, lemony or nutty or horseradishy…the options are seemingly endless, and that doesn't even include the "cheddar-adjacent" cheeses like Lancashire or Red Leicester.
Enter the cheesemonger. Cheesemongers are your tour guide to the wonderful world of cheese, and the key to unlocking your own personal flavor preferences and tastes.
As the flavor profiles of cheddar are as vast as the number of cows milked to make them, you can start by talking to your cheesemonger about what kind of flavor you are hoping for, and how you will be using the cheese. Don't be afraid to offer up more general flavor notes like "nutty" or "creamy" - it's the cheesemonger's job to know the cheeses in their case, and to be able to help you narrow down the options.
It's also important to note that the nature of real cheese is that it will change seasonally and batch to batch, so make sure you are tasting each cheese with your monger to see how it changes and if it still suits your needs. In the process, you will start to identify more specific flavor profiles that you enjoy, and develop your palate, as well as a deeper appreciation for the cheeses. Your cheesemonger is your friend!