History of Cheddar

Next to Stilton, Cheddar is one of the UK’s favourite cheeses with a history dating back to the 12th century and King Henry II and Daniel Defoe among its high profile supporters; the former claiming it to be the best in Britain and the latter dedicating a whole chapter to this famous cheese in his book ‘A Tour of the Islands of Great Britain’.

tawvalleyrange_hra7-n2Originating in Somerset and taking its name from the village of Cheddar and Cheddar Gorge where it was once matured within the natural caves, this cheese is as popular today as ever. However today Cheddar is no longer only made in Somerset but all over the world resulting in a cheese that varies considerably in texture, flavour and appearance.

In 1996 Westcountry Farmhouse Cheddar was given Protected Designation of Origin status, meaning that it could only be made in the counties of Somerset,Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. It must also be made to traditional methods such as ‘cheddaring’ where the whey is drained and the curds are stacked together, this is repeated and when matured the cheese will have a dense, crumbly texture. It must be made using locally sourced milk from the makers own farm and should be matured for at least nine months. These strict rules ensure that traditional farmhouse Cheddar remains just that.

During, and for some time after World War II the production of most cheeses wasquickes_extra_mature banned by the government due to shortages and rationing. One cheese, nicknamed ‘Government Cheddar’ was permitted, a standardised, bland and tasteless cheese but made in vast quantities to preserve milk. The effect of this was not realised until rationing was lifted in 1954, 3,400 cheese producers had shut down and it was thought that the art of making cheeses had been lost. Luckily for us this was not the case and artisan cheesemakers started to spring up around the country, creating cheddars that reflected the land, the season and the passion of their makers.

We stock a wide range of Cheddar cheeses including Barbers Farmhouse, Taw Valley and Quicke’s Traditional. Try some today and fall in love with cheddar again.


Have you tried paté?

Paté is one of those foods that if you haven’t tried it is distinctly unappealing, it doesn’t look like something you would willingly put in your mouth and just a quick look at the ingredients list leaves you running for the hills. What are you supposed to do with this loaf of minced meat that screams of 1970s dinner parties in the same way that prawn cocktail does? But if you manage to get over all of that, paté can be utterly delicious especially when paired with the right accompaniments.
FarmhousePate_7l7l-jcClassic paté is believed to have originated in Ancient Greece as a way of utilizing every part of the animal to provide livelihood and prevent wastage. Traditionally it had a homely, rustic appeal but there has now been a shift in how patés and terrines are viewed, with some even appearing in Michelin starred restaurants as well as on your own kitchen table. There are many different types of paté from smoked fish to traditional chicken liver as well as the more chunky terrines. We’ve kept things simple and listed a few of them below.

Lets start with one of the most popular here in the UK, Brussels paté. This is smooth textured and usually made using pork and liver and flavoured with garlic, black pepper and cloves.
Ardennes paté is coarser in texture than Brussels but is made using roughly the same ingredients, pork, liver and fat and flavoured with mixed herbs and spices.
Duck and Orange paté, the clue is in the name, is made using duck and pork liver  and is flavoured with orange zest and mixed herbs.
Farmhouse campagne paté is perhaps the best known of them all, made using pork liver and flavoured with cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, this is a coarse textured paté with mountains of flavour.

So now you know your patés, but when should you eat them and what should you be eating them with? Patés can be enjoyed as a simple yet effective starter with freshly made toast and perhaps a dollop of fruity chutney or as lunch dish with a warm, crusty baguette or roll. They are even at home alongside slices of meat, cheese, breads, olives and chutneys in an antipasto platter. Whatever you fancy, there is a paté for that and we’re sure you’ll find one that you love. Go on, give it a go.


Farmhouse vs. Factory Cheese

It goes without saying that there is a huge difference in quality between traditional, hand made artisan cheeses and generic, industrial cheeses.

Cheeses that are made, shaped and nurtured by hand have more care and expertise go into them than the bog standard Cheddar. They are also, in most circumstances, either made using milk from the makers own herd or sourced locally. The result is cheese that varies in taste, texture and overall appearance throughout the year. A Cheddar made on a small farm in Somerset has a very different taste to Cheddar made anywhere else. In fact there are only six dairies worldwide that make West Country Farmhouse Cheddar with Protected Designation of Origin status. This award is an assurance of the quality and authenticity of the cheese; it has to be made using milk from the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Devon or Cornwall, it must be made using traditional techniques such as ‘cheddaring’ or turning the curds by hand and it must be matured for at least nine months.

In contrast many processed cheeses are uniformly made using milk from a large number of different dairies in a very controlled process. A factory will produce many different cheeses and because of this the milk goes through a number of processes such as heat treating to minimise spoilage before pasteurisation and removing much of the fat content. In farmhouse cheeses this fat is essential to the flavour and texture of the cheese; while it isn’t as good for your waistline, it’ll certainly taste a lot better!

Here at Isca Foods we are passionate about supporting small-scale dairies and their fantastic cheeses. It is important that the skills and time-honoured techniques needed to make them are not lost. This is why we are proud to say that almost all of our cheeses can be traced back to the farm in which they were made. Have a look at our cheese pages for more information.