An homage to traditional English cheddars is long overdue. And because this morning I came across a most interesting section of the website of one of my favorites, I thought I'd profile not only the cheese, but the website, too. If you've ever had Mrs. Mary Quicke's cheddar, you'll love to know that she chronicles the happenings on her farm at the start of each month, and gives original recipes that correspond to her garden's offerings. All this, I found, is in her diary.
Traditional English cheddars are clothbound, and typically sealed with lard. It's from the cloth wrapping and cave aging that the cheddar gets such earthy, musty aromas. And while American cheddar makers have largely resorted to aging cheddars in plastic, English cheddars have not. And it's not always easy, as Mrs. Quicke explains in her diary entry this month. (As an aside: Of particular note is our country's Cabot Clothbound cheddar by Jasper Hill Farm and Beecher's clothbound cheddar, both of which take inspiration from English cheesemakers.)
With such unique and intense aging comes pretty assertive flavors: in the best cheddars, you'll find a flavor that's eggy, caramel, and nutty, all with notes of a grandmother's cellar — it's that pleasant, familiar dark and dank aroma that continually surprises the senses. How can these smells and flavors that are so non-food like end up in cheese? Perhaps it's due in part to that magical process of fermentation.
You'll find that with a good cheddar the flavor will change from season to season. All English cheddars will be made from raw milk, which more accurately expresses the fluctuations in flavor profile that result from variation in animals' diet, weather, and season, since natural bacteria and enzymes remain in non-pasteurized milk.
Mrs. Quicke's Cheddar is made in Devon, England, from the raw milk of their 500 cross-bred cows. Check out Mary Quicke's diary for super interesting information on her herd, and how the changes in weather have impact on her cheesemaking and farming. And check at the bottom of each entry for recipes, like the June entry's mention of sauteed mustard greens with cheddar cheese sauce.
• Mrs. Quicke's Cheddar at iGourmet
Related: The Cheesemonger: Cheddar