Cheddar Gorge: The Birthplace of Cheddar Cheese
Over the past hundred and fifty years, cheddar cheese, once a regional specialty, has become one of the world's most widely produced dairy products. Throughout time, the cheese has evolved in style, flavor, and process.
Cheddar has a long history dating back to the 12th century, in a village in Somerset, England. It's namesake, Cheddar Village, is a small town with gorges and caves that farmers used to keep milk cool on hot days. The myth behind the birth of cheddar cheese is that a milkmaid forgot about a pail of milk in one of the caves. When she returned, she found the milk had been hardened into the delicious gold cheese we know and love today!
Cheddar Gorge is a limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills, near the village of Cheddar, Somerset, England. The famous gorge is the site of the Cheddar show caves among other attractions, it has become a tourist destination for cheese enthusiasts and thrill seekers. All cheese lovers should make a stop at the picturesque gorges, historic caves, and the popular Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, a historical storefront with samples, provisions, and gifts from the production and aging facility on site.
To visit the spectacular Cheddar Gorge and caves, you can visit the Cheddar Gorge & Caves website for tickets and booking information.
The Original Cheddar Cheese Caves
Luke Shepherd, a cheesemaker working on a rotary system at The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, says "The caves are a natural store system. All cheesemakers try to emulate what the cave does." - via Food&Wine. The caves were formed 500,000 years ago, with the first mention of the cave cheese dating to 1170, when King Henry II purchased more than 10,000 pounds. The type was officially named cheddar in 1500.
Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company ages many of its cheeses in three store rooms: six months for mellow, 15 months for extra mature, and up to 30 months for vintage (all award-winning between 2019 and 2021). But you visit to try the cheddar that matured in caves for a year.
Luke Shepherd shared, "We store our cheese in the middle of the cave system — it's prime location, really," Shepherd explained. "It's not too close to the floor; it's near the roof of the caves so there's not going to be any water damage if the caves flood. It is an underground riverbed so the caves do flood, but it doesn't change the humidity in there. It allows the cultures within the body of the cheese to move more quickly. One or two degrees and the humidity can make a massive difference to the texture and the quality of the cheese." - via Food&Wine.
Cheddar, Somerset is a small, somewhat touristy village with shops and seasonal crowds, but there's plenty of outdoors appeal and experiences to explore after tasting your first cave-aged cheddar from Cheddar!