Probably the most consumed cheese in the world, these days cheddar cheese is made all over the world. Cheddar originated from Somerset around the late 12th Century and took its name from the Gorge or caves in the town of Cheddar that were used to store the cheese. The constant temperature and humidity of the caves provided a perfect environment for maturing the cheese. Only farms in the West Country and 14 makers are licensed to use the EU Protected Designation of Origin “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar”. The cheese must be made on a farm in the four counties of Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset from locally produced milk and using traditional Cheddar making techniques – including hand Cheddaring. West Country Farmhouse Cheddar is matured in the region and sold at a minimum age of 9 months and is subject to regular grading throughout its life. Cheddar is sold at different ages. Mild Cheddar is typically sold at about 3 months of age; medium matured Cheddar at 5 to 6 months; mature Cheddar at around 9 months, Extra Mature at around 15 months and Vintage at 18 months or more. As Cheddar matures so its taste develops from the young creamy taste of mild Cheddar to complex, lasting, slightly nutty flavours of mature Cheddar and beyond. Traditionally made Farmhouse varieties, which may be cloth bound, become significantly harder as they age; the texture becomes drier and the flavours generally more complex than their creamery counterparts. Some of the farm-made Cheddar uses unpasteurised (raw) milk which will tend to have rather more complex and stronger flavours, whilst others will use pasteurised milk. Cheese flavour will also vary depending on the time of year it was made and what the cows may have been eating at that time. Creamery made Cheddar is increasingly being sold at a longer age in response to changing consumer tastes for tastier cheese. These more mature (extra mature or vintage) Cheddars often have a characteristic sweet, nutty flavour with a very long finish. Mild Cheddar remains popular as an everyday cheese and is characterised by a gentle, creamy flavour and has the added advantage of slicing easily. So whatever your preference there will be a Cheddar for you depending on its age, how it was made, where it was made and the time of year that it was made.