This area of Somerset has been producing cheese for hundreds of years, and there are records of cheese-making going back to the 12th century. The method historically used and perfected here took its name from the village of Cheddar. These days cheddar cheese is made all over the world but there is an EU Protected Designation of Origin in place for West Country Farmhouse Cheddar. If you buy cheese thus marked, you will know it has come from Somerset, Dorset, Devon or Cornwall by producers using the original method, and using milk from local farms. There is also Artisan Somerset Cheddar with an even tighter definition.
In contrast, one of the UK’s most popular brands of cheese, Cathedral City Cheddar, is now produced in Cornwall but not using the traditional hand-made methods. Dairy Crest acquired the ownership of the brand from Mendip Foods Ltd in 1995. One company still makes cheese in Cheddar and that is, unsurprisingly, the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. Their premium product, Cave-Aged Cheddar, is matured in Cheddar Caves (see photo) much as it would have been centuries earlier. When visiting Cheddar you can take a self-guided tour through the cheese company and see the manufacturing process at first hand, and taste and buy cheese in the shop afterwards. The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company has featured in recent television programmes Rory Bremner’s Great British Views and Jedward’s Big Adventure. For more information visit the Cheddar Cheese wiki.