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.