Cheddar cheese, for me, encapsulates all that is great about British cuisine. Fine, it’s not creamy like Brie or Coulommiers. It doesn’t have the soft tang of Manchego, or the plump of Mozzarella. What it is, though, is versatile, dependable, and comforting. Whether it’s sandwiches, pasta bakes, or omelettes; sliced, melted, or cubed on a cocktail stick with pineapple; cheddar does it all. If cheddar were a person, it would be one who would always text you back. Sure, you might not have the wildest night together, but you’ll be damn sure to get a cup of tea in the morning.
The cheese has been manufactured in Cheddar in Somerset since the 12th century, possibly from a recipe brought over from France by the Romans. Today, any producer across the world is permitted to label their product ‘Cheddar’ (unlike many other cheeses that have protected status to their original regions – Gruyère, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, among others). This is, of course, absolutely classic behaviour from good old cheddar. It’s not fussed. It’s not funny about that kind of thing. No wonder it’s the most widely purchased and eaten cheese in the world.
Thinking back, I have two abiding Cheddar Memories from my childhood. The first is of my maternal Granddad, who always made cheese on toast under the grill for supper when he came to stay. The second is the day that my Mum made cheese scones to enter into the local Horticultural show. Against stiff competition, she won first place! I was very proud; they were absolutely delicious. Fancying having a go myself, I texted Mum to ask which recipe she used, in the hope of recreating the same magic. My hopes were dashed, however, when she replied saying “it was just a standard recipe from somewhere or other.” Disappointed but still keen to have a go, I chose this recipe from BBC Good Food.
I thought about buying some posh Cheddar for the scones, one that comes wrapped in paper, but then realised that this would be deeply inauthentic to my personal relationship with cheese, so I got some from the corner shop instead. The recipe was so quick and easy to make, and the dough was really easy to handle. The scones were really nice (pictured at the top), even if a bit overcooked, although I don’t think they were as good as my Mum’s. Is it I or is it the corner shop cheese to blame? We may never know.