No one seems to be certain who “invented” cheese. There are various fanciful tales of traders in diverse parts of the world carrying milk in dried stomachs of livestock that curdled, eventually producing the first portable dairy product. Who knows? The important thing is that they did it and we have it. One of the most popular types we enjoy is cheddar. Cheddar is a usually off-white, hard, natural cheese of a sharp or acidic flavor. Only the cheddar cheeses made from milk produced within four local counties in south west England are proudly designated West Country Farmhouse Cheddars.
But you just can’t keep a good cheese down. Cheddar cheeses are now produced in more than eleven countries including England, Australia,, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and, of course, the United States. While the production of Cheddar cheese is sometimes “industrialized”, there is a growing demand for local artisan cheddars. The minor variances in grazed grasses produce corresponding variances in milk. Combined with artisanal cheese-making techniques and diverse aging conditions, these cheddars have opened many a taste bud to some unique flavors.
Now that we have the cheese, I propose a toast, a bread toast, to the unsung hero who first melted cheddar on a slab of bread. Depending on your level of decadence, even this perfection can be augmented with a slather of mustard or a crisp slice of bacon and perhaps a pickle. And that’s just a piece of bread. Where would the omelets, quiches, soufflés, macaroni & cheese casseroles, Ploughman’s lunches, the cheeseburgers, soups be without cheddar? I doubt anyone really wants to find out.
While we’re waiting for Mother Nature to give us her last cold shoulder and before she forks over all those fresh young greens, we can indulge in a last farewell to seasonally rich dishes. This time we offer a dish that can show off in the dining room or as nursery comfort food, Scalloped Cheddar Potatoes. It’s simple, easy and deeply satisfying.