Most of what follows is taken from a Wall Street Journal article by Tia Keenan entitled "Cheddar Has Never Been Better."
Cheddar is probably too big of a category for us to treat justly in our limited format here. For one thing, strictly speaking, Cheddar cheese is made in the area around the village of Cheddar in England. What we're going to discuss here is the American version. To be sure though, the American version is a direct descendant of the English since our colonists were English.
For the first 150 years of our American history Cheddar was the premier cheese of the country. Then with industrialization came supermarkets and pre-packaged commodity cheddar and prepared frozen foods utilizing the commodity. A further result of industrialization was the creation of "American" processed cheese. Colored to look Cheddar-ish, American had its reign through most of the twentieth century. Then when pizza became so popular, Mozzarella took over as our best selling cheese.
What is Cheddar cheese and what accounts for its popularity? Cheddar is made by stacking curds at the dairy extracting the liqid whey and drying the curds in the process. These sturdier curds could then be milled and pressed into molds for aging.
Cheddar's popularity has to do with its many applications. A chunk on a platter with a nearby knife serves most of our needs at dinners and social events. If it's not too aged and crumbly, cheddar has a place in sandwiches. As an accompaniment with apples, other fruit and nuts, cheddar becomes a frity snack. Melted on casseroles and other hot dishes, you can't beat what cheddar adds to flavor combinations.
Beginning in the 1970's Farmstead Cheddars have been revived. Like an estate wine, these cheeses are made entirely on the farm and then sold in specialty food stores. Because we are mass-market nation many of these better Cheddars are now distributed more widely as the producers adapt to consumer demand.
Please join us this Thursday the 24th at 5pm when Bob Reynolds offers us a tasting of Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris, Julia James California Pinot Noir and two from Donati of California, the Cabernet Suavignon and Ezio Reserve Red Blend.