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  • Ross Christieson

Orange or white? The tale of two cheddars

Cheddar cheese is a beloved dairy product enjoyed worldwide for its rich, creamy, and slightly tangy flavor. But have you ever wondered why cheddar cheese can come in two different hues: white and orange? This intriguing aspect of cheddar cheese has captured the curiosity of food enthusiasts for generations, and the answer lies in history, tradition, and a surprising ingredient - annatto.


Historical Roots:

To understand the origins of white and orange cheddar, we must first delve into the history of cheese-making. Cheddar cheese, which takes its name from the English village of Cheddar in Somerset, has been produced for centuries. In its earliest form, cheddar cheese was white. This is because the cows whose milk were used for making cheddar grazed on grasses that did not contain significant amounts of beta-carotene, the pigment responsible for the orange color.

The Advent of Orange Cheddar:

The story of orange cheddar cheese begins with a marketing decision. In the late 17th century, dairy producers in England began adding a natural dye called annatto to their cheddar cheese. Annatto is derived from the seeds of the achiote tree, native to tropical regions in South America. It was initially introduced to give the cheese a consistent, appealing color and distinguish it from other varieties. This practice soon found its way to the American colonies.

Variations in Orange Intensity:

The orange hue of cheddar cheese can vary from pale yellow to deep orange, depending on the amount of annatto used. The exact shade of orange is often a closely guarded secret among cheesemakers, contributing to the unique characteristics of different cheddar varieties.

Preference and Tradition:

The choice between white and orange cheddar largely comes down to personal preference and tradition. In regions with a history of producing orange cheddar, such as parts of the United States, it's a common choice and a beloved tradition. However, in countries where white cheddar is the norm, like the United Kingdom, white cheddar remains the preferred variety.

Does Color Affect Taste?

One of the most common questions surrounding white and orange cheddar is whether there's any difference in taste. The short answer is that there's no inherent flavor distinction between the two. The color variation is primarily due to the addition of annatto, which imparts a subtle flavor but doesn't drastically alter the taste of the cheese. Instead, the variation in flavor primarily depends on factors like aging, milk quality, and cheesemaking techniques.


The mystery of why cheddar cheese can be white or orange is rooted in history, tradition, and the use of annatto as a natural dye. While there's no significant taste difference between the two varieties, the color choice often reflects regional preferences and historical practices. Whether you prefer the classic white cheddar or the vibrant orange variety, one thing is certain: both offer the same creamy, delicious cheddar flavor that has made this cheese a timeless favorite around the world. Mera Foodservice has your cheddar needs covered, whether white or orange. Check out some of our delicious and unique cheddar recipes below!


Original Recipe

Tomato-Cheddar Tart

Ingredients:

250 g flour, plus more for dusting

360 g Mera shredded cheddar cheese

140 g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

1 1⁄2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

80 ml ice-cold water

3 medium vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced 0.5 cm thick

30 g grated parmesan cheese

60 g mayonnaise

2 scallions, thinly sliced

3 tbsp. finely chopped basil

Crust

Pulse flour, 120 g cheddar, butter, 1 1⁄2 tsp. salt, and 1⁄2 tsp. pepper in a food processor into pea-size crumbles. Add water; pulse until dough comes together. Form dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.

Tomatoes

Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a double layer of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 1 hour. Blot dry with more paper towels.

Tart

Heat oven to 220°C. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 36 cm circle about 0.5 cm thick. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Mix 180 g cheddar, 30 g pecorino, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Spread mayonnaise mixture evenly over crust, leaving a 3.5 cm border. Top with tomato slices, overlapping slightly. Season with black pepper, and sprinkle with scallions and basil. Fold overhanging crust up and over edge of filling. Sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over top of filling and crust.

Bake until golden brown, 40–45 minutes.


Original Recipe

Cauliflower Cheddar Soup


Ingredients:

1 large onion, diced

1 stick celery, diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

25g unsalted butter

15 ml olive oil

500g trimmed cauliflower florets, cut into small chunks

1 medium-sized potato, peeled and roughly chopped

pinch cayenne pepper

pinch of smoked paprika

1 bay leaf

400ml whole milk

400ml vegetable or chicken stock

100g Mera cheddar, grated

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

salt and pepper, to taste


Put the onion, celery, garlic, butter and olive oil into a large saucepan set over a low-medium heat. Gently cook the vegetables for 7–8 minutes until tender.


Add a pinch of cayenne and a pinch of smoked paprika to the pan, stir well and cook for a further 30 seconds.


Add the cauliflower, potato, bay leaf, milk and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper, stir well, half cover the pan with a lid and slowly bring to a gentle simmer.


Continue to cook for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.


Remove the bay leaf and using a stick blender, blend the soup until silky smooth. Add the grated cheese, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and blend again to thoroughly combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper as required.


Ladle the soup into bowls. Serve with croutons and a sprinkle of extra cheese over top if desired.

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