Set to be the biggest cheddar event the world has ever seen, the first edition of the Great British & Irish Cheddar Challenge will take place on Saturday 16 September, with tasting boxes now available to reserve. To buy yours from Cheese Etc click here!
Inviting cheese lovers everywhere to get involved, the Great British & Irish Cheddar Challenge will see cheesemongers across the country selling tasting boxes of six unlabelled artisan cheddars. These will then be discussed during an online blind tasting event on 16 September, presented by comedian and cheese judge, Marcus Brigstocke, alongside experts from the cheese industry.
The Great British Cheddar Challenge will invite cheese lovers to challenge their perceptions of cheddar. With artisan cheddar accounting for only 3% of cheddar sales in the UK, Marcus and co. will guide viewers through some of the finest examples of artisan cheddar ever made– exploring how the seasons, the grass, the cows, the makers and the unique microflora in maturing rooms have influenced each truckle – before a People’s Choice Award vote to find the nation’s favourite cheddar.
•What is Artisan Cheddar and why should we care about it?
Artisan cheddar is not a protected name so this makes things a little tricky. Real artisan cheddar is made by a cheesemaker using a single herds milk. The cheesemaker may own the cows or buy the milk locally. The process of making the cheese is largely done by hand. This includes adding the cultures, rennet, cutting the curds salting, pressing and wrapping the cheeses in cotton muslin. Each cheesemaker will have their own recipe for making the Cheddar and some recipes will go back hundreds of years.
If you are to compare the 6 cheeses that we will be tasting at the Great British & Irish Cheddar Challenge you will easily find that each cheese is different in taste. This is due to the terroir and aspect from which the cows graze. The biome of the ageing rooms are all totally unique to the cheesemakers and carry their own characteristic. Just like a fingerprint is unique to every one of us so are the true artisan cheesemakers cheeses.
Artisan cheddar is more often made with unpasteurised milk. This helps to give each hand made cheese is unique identity. Every batch will be wonderfully different according to the cows diet and the lactation cycle.
• What is the difference between Artisan and Block Cheddar?
Block cheddar is made on a huge scale. Imagine an artisan producer that makes circa 150 tonnes of cheese a year. In comparison an industrial block cheddar factory can easily produce more than 200 tonnes of cheese a day.
Block cheddar is pasteurised as the milk comes from many sources. This reduces the depth of flavour that artisan clearly has. Often block cheddar using other cultures not associated with true artisan cheddar production to give a sweeter taste.
The true artisan producer will have their own single herd cow’s milk or from a local herd nearby. Industrial block cheddar producers will have milk delivered from hundreds of dairies up and down the country and even from overseas.
Cheese VATS used in factories are more often than not closed and can contain tens of thousand of litres of milk, sometimes as much as 30,000ltrs. Artisan producers use open VATS that are sized according to the yield of their herd. Sizes of VATS generally never exceed 5000ltrs. The size of the VAT will only mirror the milk yields of their herds or the local milk sourced. Industrial closed VATS are completely mechanised taking out any human intervention. Open VATS used in artisan production are open to see the milk and work it by hand.
Block cheddar is cut into large blocks and aged in vacuum packs. This is done to avoid any shrinkage and rind. It gives each block cheddar a uniformed taste with little character. Artisan cheddar is generally aged in cloth with a fat coating the cheese. There is shrinkage and a unique rind development that gives beautiful rich savoury flavours.
• Why does Artisan Cheddar taste different to Block Cheddar?
It is in the interest of the Artisan producer to make a product that encapsulates the bio diversity of their flora and fauna. This is done by careful land and animal management. True artisan cheddar producers will only use sustainable and ethical methods. Their hard work shows itself in the quality and taste of the cheese produced. The cheese has a full complexed flavour that is expressive and keeps giving. Artisan unpasteurised milk Cheddar additionally can contain probiotics that are brilliant for our gut health. Pasteurised block cheddar does not contain probiotics although occasionally this can be added.
Block cheddar has a shorter flavour. It does not show the flora and flora of where the milk is sourcedas it is made with milk from numerous farms and is pasteurised.