24 March 2016

Thinking about Cheddar and Cantal cheeses

Tim, an Englishman who lives about an hour south of here in France and frequently leaves comments here, shared some information about Cheddar cheese after Susan on Days on the Claise mentioned in one of her blog posts about having an abundance of the cheese. People bring it to her from England. I'm sure it's very good. (Here's a link to Tim and Pauline's food and cooking blog.)

I was reading about Cheddar yesterday. The true Cheddar comes from the Cheddar Valley in Somerset, in southwestern England. Cheddar is also made elsewhere in England, and in Scotland. And in Ireland and Australia, I imagine. Not to mention New Zealand and South Africa. I don't claim to be an expert.

Cheddar is also made in North America. The Cheddar producers in England never applied for any kind of protection, geographical or in terms of methods, for their cheese, so anybody anywhere can make cheese and call it Cheddar. As a result, the U.S. produces three or four times as much cheese labeled as Cheddar as the United Kingdom does. Much of U.S. Cheddar in colored orange, but in Vermont a good white Cheddar is a regional specialty.


Slightly more than half the cheese sold in the U.K. is Cheddar, I've read. That seems so different from the situation in France, where I'm sure no one cheese (out of the 200 or 300 or more made around the country) dominates the market that way. People to buy and eat a lot of Emmenthal, Camembert, Brie, and Comté, but then they buy and eat of lot of Cantal, Saint-Nectaire, Reblochon, Sainte-Maure, Valençay, Abondance, Munster, Maroilles, Livarot, Neufchâtel, Epoisses... I'd better stop, because the list is nearly endless. Look at this page on Wikipedia.



Another Wikipedia article I read says that experts believe that it was the Romans who took cheese-making techniques to Great Britain. They discovered people in France's Massif Central — the mountainous area now called L'Auvergne — making cheese when they invaded 2,000 years ago. They shared techniques and methods with people in Great Britain, and what is now called Cantal cheese became the basis for Cheddar. The two cheeses are similar.

One difference, I think, is that Cheddar is "cooked" cheese like Comté, whereas Cantal is not cooked. In other words, the milk curds are heated up to make Cheddar, but they are used "raw" in making Cantal. The "cooking" temperature for cheddar is only about 40ºC, just over 100ºF, but it's bound to be enough to affect the taste and texture of the cheese.

In Cantal — I blogged about the process (five posts) a few years ago — the milk curds stay at an even temperature all through the process. No cultures are added — they are natural, present in the air in Auvergne and in the chestnut wood vats that the hold the milk as it curdles.


In Saint-Aignan and all around France, it is easy to find the three or even four types of Cantal, which are cheeses sold at different stages of maturation. There's tomme fraîche, which isn't aged at all. Then there's Cantal Jeune, Cantal Entre-Deux, and Cantal Vieux. As for Cheddar, the only example I've found around here is a little brick of white cheese sold at the SuperU supermarket in town. Tim says it's not real Cheddar but a knock-off made in Scotland.

I've thrown in a few recent photos as decoration... Click or tap on them to enlarge them.

23 comments:

Carolg said...

Hi Ken - have you visited the Cheese Shop in Place Wilson? They sell good traditional Cheddar. It is totally different from the cheese that you buy in the supermarket.
Regards Carol

Ken Broadhurst said...

Hi Carol, I've been thinking that I need to stop in the cheese shop up there. I wouldn't be surprised to see that they charge a fortune for good Cheddar. I bought the SuperU cheddar once in a while for a while, but then I decided Cantal was a better taste and less expensive.

LaPré DelaForge said...

Nice article Ken...
Yes, cheddar escaped, hence people like Wykes and Quickes heavily promoting the origins of their Somerset cheddar.
The cooking must effect the flavour, I agree...and the similarities because of the origins is interesting to know.
Quickes cheese,one of only three varieties that are still made and cave matured in the Gorge, isn't cooked...
It is held at 38 to 40 degrees for the rennet to work...and so make the curds...after that the curds are put in the moulds to drain and then are pressed...the contents of two moulds are then placed together and wrapped in cheesecloth....
A lot of commercial cheddar and some other UK cheeses have agents added to speed the maturing...
and make a 15 month flavour cheddar, etc. in three months!!
I happen to be chronically allergic to those, hence my interest in the process!!
Interestingly, I have never encountered a problem with any French, Greek or Spanish cheese...
Here, in France, I can eat cheese and not worry that my head will explode...
or feel as though it is going to!!
I prefer Salers, the single varietal version of a Cantal type cheese...
eaten raw, to me, it tastes closer to Quickes...
But, hey...so many cheeses, so little time!!

potty said...

A subject that stirs the loyalty to one's own country that British cheeses are now very good.
After hols in France and returning home to ask Sainsbury's why they don't stock Saint Agur and Le mottin Charentais was only 20yrs ago. Some of the really specialist producers have no chance of exporting their cheeses - they don't make enough. When friends return to France, with a car, they won't bring Stinking Bishop ( even double wrapped).

Ken Broadhurst said...

As I said, Cantal and Salers are the same cheese, but they are seasonal. Salers is made when the cows are able to graze outdoors. I don't know if the breed of cattle (Salers vs. Montbéliarde) is a factor; it might be. Mainly the difference is grass vs. hay.

I shudder to think how most of the U.S. Cheddar is made. Maybe I'm wrong.

Ken Broadhurst said...

I've never heard of Stinking Bishop. At least in the UK you can get French cheeses that stand a chance of being fresh. I wonder how the prices are. In the US, when there are French cheeses at all they are often (1) overripe and (2) exorbitantly expensive. In North Carolina recently, I saw French cheeses on sale for more than $20 per small wedge in one supermarket cheese counter.

Andrew said...

In Australia all we had when I was a kid was Kraft Cheddar. It was a block of what I would now call plastic cheese, wrapped in foil and inside a cardboard packet. There was the luxury item for adults, the Tasty Cheese, which even now is quite nice. Now the conversation is about wheels of the best cheese. Cheese made from unpasteurised milk was illegal here. There was a big battle over it and I am not sure if it is now allowed or not. Sadly everything I had heard about American cheese proved to be correct when we were in New York.

Ken Broadhurst said...

I hear you. I think in the U.S. cheese made from raw milk can be imported if it has been aged for at least 60 days before coming into the country. I don't know if raw milk cheese can be made in the States, but probably it can. Most of the cheese is of course what in France is called industriel.

Evelyn said...

Seeing cheese making from start to finish is a forever favorite trip memory for me. I'm so glad we made that trip.

Nadia said...

Nothing beats the cheese in France!

The Beaver said...

Andrew

I used to love Kraft Cheddar when i was a kid, living on the island off the coast of Africa, since I didn't know better except for the rare occasions when a neighbour of ours, a night watchman at the harbour used to bring us some European cheese whenever he was working for a cargo shipping company.
Now that I know better, I realize that processed cheese doesn't taste much

Ken Broadhurst said...

That's one of my best memories too. Along with the horse show at Le Haras du Pin. And also Paris a couple of times.

LaPré DelaForge said...

Ken, if US cheddar is anything like most of the commercial cheddar cheeses made the world over...
Shudder on my!!

NotesFromAbroad said...

My husband lived in London for years and whenever we went to cheese shops here in the US .. he would sadly mention ( more than a few times) how he wished he could have this or that kind of cheese that he had in England, which was so much better than this or that cheese here in the US.
He loved nothing better than the stinkiest of cheeses.
I would leave the room when he was snacking on those things :)

Roz . Russell said...

Wow, I never knew that about Cantal cheese I thought Tomme was a cheese in it's own right, so you learn something new every day, great blog as always

Carolyn said...

At Wegmans in Harrisburg PA today we bought a Bucheron from France, selling for $15.99/lb. They offered tastes of a Comte and a strongly goaty cheese that comes wrapped in walnut leaves.

Once a year we stop at a cheese house in New York state. The older the cheese, the more expensive and supposedly the tastier, but the expensive ones are wasted on me. I actually enjoy supermarket cheddar.

Home Decor Daily said...

What are the names of those lovely pink flowers?

Ken Broadhurst said...

I see the name "gerbera" or just pink daisy (marguérite rose).

Ken Broadhurst said...

The cheddar I get at SuperU has a sort of sour taste that I don't like so much. Cantal is better, and then Comté (a swiss cheese) is different but very good. The Cantal and Comté I get in the supermarkets are AOC cheeses.

Ken Broadhurst said...

: ^ )

Ken Broadhurst said...

There are many different kinds of cheese called tomme in France. Tomme de Savoie, tomme de montagne, and tomme des Pyrénées are widely available and well known. Tomme fraîche can come from either the Cantal or the Laguiole regions, and its the name given to cheese that has been pressed but not aged. It's especially used to make the Auvergne potato specialties called aligot (pureed potatoes and cheese) and truffade (a kind of gratin).

Ken Broadhurst said...

I think you can find the whole range of cheddars being made in the U.S., from industrial to farm-made and organic, these days. Vermont, New York State, and Oregon produce good cheddars.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Comté is French of course, but it resembles what we call swiss cheese in the U.S.