Why Is Cheddar Cheese Orange?
Cheddar cheese is a relatively hard, yellow to off-white, and sometimes sharp-tasting cheese originally made in the English village of Cheddar, in Somerset. During olden days, England was the only place where Cheddar cheeses were made. However, many countries all over the world manufacture Cheddar today.
Any cheese producing company or any of the artisan manufacturers in any corner of the world can label the cheese produced by them as ‘Cheddar’ since it is not protected like other cheese names or brands.
Joseph Harding, the “father of Cheddar cheese” who invented modern cheese making techniques described the ideal quality of original Somerset Cheddar as “close and firm in texture, mellow in character or quality, rich with a tendency to melt in the mouth and has full and fine flavor somewhat like hazelnut!”
Cheddar cheese, the most widely purchased and eaten cheese in the world is always made from cow’s milk. It is a hard and natural cheese that has a slightly crumbly texture if properly cured and if it is too young, the texture is smooth. It gets a sharper taste as it matures, over a period of time between 9 to 24 months.
Shaped like a drum, 15 inches in diameter, Cheddar cheese is natural rind bound in cloth while its color generally ranges from white to pale yellow. However, some Cheddar may have a manually added yellow-orange color.
Cheddar cheese is orange because it is colored with annatto, extracted from seeds of the tropical achiote tree, a plant-based coloring agent. The coloring of cheddar is thought to have started in order to maintain color consistency in the cheese. Nuances and color of the milk will vary from season to season, based on the cows’ diet.
Colored Cheddar style cheese has long been on sale, but even as early as 1860, the real reason for this was unclear: Joseph Harding stated “to the cheese consumers of London who prefer an adulterated food to that which is pure I have to announce an improvement in the annatto with which they compel the cheese makers to color the cheese”.
According to David Feldman, an author of trivia books, “The only reason why cheese makers color their product is because consumers seem to prefer it”.