Britain is a nation famous for the quality and history of its many cheeses. The United Kingdom is home to dozens of varieties of cheese, many of which, such as Stilton, are produced nowhere else in the world. Cheddar, Lancashire, and Shropshire Blue are among the most popular, but this list only scratches the surface of the highly varied cheeses produced in Britain. Additional information on other popular British cheeses can be found on the British Cheese Board's website at http://www.britishcheese.com/cheese.
Stilton is an English cheese that is produced in two varieties: blue and white. Granted the status of a protected designation of origin by the European Commission, only cheese produced according to a strict code in the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire can be called Stilton. Characterised by delicate blue veins radiating from its centre, this cheese is unprocessed and allowed to form its own coat or crust. It is traditionally made in a cylindrical shape and was discovered by Cooper Thornhill at a small farm in Stilton in 1730.
The most consumed cheese in the United Kingdom, cheddar cheese is fairly hard and can be pale yellow to orange. This sharp-tasting cheese, which originated in the village of Cheddar in Somerset, is now produced in other countries, including Ireland, the United States, New Zealand, and Canada. Cheddar has been in production since at least 1170, but was modernised and standardised in the 19th century by Joseph Harding, who is today referred to as the "father" of cheddar cheese. Key to the making of Cheddar cheese is the process of "cheddaring," in which the curd is kneaded with salt, cut into cubes to drain the whey, and then stacked and turned.
Lancashire cheese is a crumbly cow's milk cheese produced by many local farms in the area about 30 miles north of Manchester (generally associated with the town of Leigh). Lancashire cheese is usually crumbly and creamy, though it can range from extremely soft to semi-hard, depending on the length of its ageing period. Boasted as the best toasting cheese in the world, Lancashire was made famous by the character of Ben Gunn, who craved the cheese in Robert Louis Stephenson's novel, "Treasure Island."
Despite its name, Shropshire Blue is made in Scotland, where it was created in the 1970s by Andy Williamson, a cheese maker trained in the making of Stilton. A blue cheese, Shropshire is made from pasteurised cows' milk and uses vegetable rennet. Its rich orange colour comes from the addition of a natural food colouring called annatto. Shropshire Blue has a tangy smell and a sharp, strong flavour, which is sharper and usually creamier than Stilton. The cheese is aged for 10 to 12 weeks and has a natural orange-brown rind.