• Simon Mckenzie

Cheddar – it’s not all about the cheese

With summer in full swing – or at least as good as I think it’s going to get this year I decided to take off for a couple of days and do a bit of research and some R & R at the same time and decided to head to Cheddar Gorge.

As far as culture goes this was topping the scales for me. Day 1 I visited Wookey Hole Cave and was amazed at the natural beauty of the cave and loved learning about how the chambers were found and formed, truly fascinating.

Day 2 I visited Gough’s cave in Cheddar itself. A very different experience as this is a man-made cave unearthed by digging and dynamite to find the chambers but again were magnificent and another very interesting story not just about the cave itself but also about the family – the Goughs – who unearthed them.

What was common in the caves was the ambient temperature which doesn’t alter from 11 degrees Celsius due to the lack of air movement inside the caves. Also, the humidity remains the same too – 100% due to the river running through the cave.

This makes them the perfect pitch to age cheddars most famous asset – its cheeses.

The cheeses are stored in the cave for around a year, given the temperature and humidity conditions the cheeses hardly lose any volume during the aging process. However, as cheese is extremely porous, they take on the deeply earthy musky flavours of the caves giving (good) cheddar its unmistaken undertones.

Now a bit of history – Cheddar has been producing – well, cheddar, since the 16thcentury. Back in them days I don’t think the caves were used for the aging process to mature flavours of the cheeses, that was a by-product. What the caves did provide in these times was refrigeration.

Fords Farm is the producer behind the cheese and the only guys still aging cheese in the cave. They also age a goats cheese in there too. It’s a mild goats cheese that won a super gold at the recent world cheese awards and also won best British cheese too.

If you want to learn a bit more about these guys have a look on their website – it’s got lots of information on there as well as a live “cheesecam” showing the cheeses aging in the cave. You can also order their cheese online there too. Well worth a little order and a bottle of port or a good burgundy to while away an evening in the garden before the brief summer ends.


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