Originally milk for Cheddar cheese came from Shorthorn cattle grazing on rich pastures in Somerset, Devon and Dorset in England. The cheese was made with fresh, warm, morning milk mixed with the previous evening's supply. An up-to-date gleaming stainless steel vat, long and narrow with rounded ends, is now used. Added rennet (which is an extract from the lining of a calf's stomach) makes a soft, flocculent curd. The curd is allowed to set and, after being cut into cubes, is heated and held at a temperature just above blood heat for thirty to fifty minutes. It is then allowed to settle and drain.
When the cheese is firm enough to be turned without breaking, it is "cheddared"; that is, it is cut into slabs which are turned and doubled up or stacked until enough whey has been discharged to leave them condensed and firm, ready for milling, salting and pressing in cloth lined metal "hoops" or moulds. This cheddaring process is unique to cheddar cheese and has been copied all over the world where so-called cheddar cheese is made. Nowadays it is often mechanised, with the curd being fed through huge cheddaring towers in a continuous process designed more to reduce cost rather than improve quality.
Apart from the lush West Country pastures, Cheddar had something else to offer early cheesemakers. The famous cheddar gorge caves, with their constant, low temperatures, made ideal storage rooms for cheese. Because the cheese was so good and, being long maturing, was well suited for distribution over a wide area, the cheese became justifiably famous. Not surprisingly, Cheddar has been copied in all corners of the world where English farmers (and Milking Shorthorn cattle) settled.
*Based, in part, upon material created by Paxton & Whitfield.