Red Leicester Cheese has a Wonderful History and a Slightly Nutty Taste
Red Leicester is an English cheese that is made in a similar manner to cheddar although it is slightly crumblier, thus it is a cheese that makes a nice addition to virtually any salad when grated.
The wonderful image of Leicester’s favourite dairy product is unmistakable. Melting beautifully and adding colour to any cheese board or sauce, Red Leicester should normally be served at room temperature and kept in the bottom part of the fridge.
Traditionally, Red Leicester cheese was used in Welsh rarebit, however it is jolly nice on top of a baked potato, melted in a grilled cheese sandwich or served with fruits like apples, pears and plums.
Leicester Cheese throughout history was always very highly rated – mainly because of the fine grazing conditions available in the County of Leicestershire – but during the Second World War, cheese had to be made to a national recipe for rationing purposes and locals named their version “White Leicester.”
After the war, manufacture of this delicious Leicestershire cheese was resumed with Annatto food colouring added to distinguish it from the inferior, mass produced, white version; Stilton cheese is now made in Leicestershire and this encouraged a third colour alternative – the experimental “Blue Leicester” variety has been tried and tested!
Since the eighteenth-century (with the exception of the war period), Leicester’s cheese has been coloured orangey / red by adding the Annatto extract during manufacture to make it stand out. A cow’s milk cheese, this famous flavoursome feast is named after the main city in that area and it has a firm texture with a slightly nutty taste.
Dating back to the seventeenth-century, farmers recognized the need to make their cheeses look and taste better than any rival, thus using Annatto (which is a vegetable dye derived from the husk of the fruit of the Annatto tree found in South America and the Caribbean) seemed like a good idea and has been used ever since.
Milk produced by cows grazing on Leicestershire’s rich grassy pastures would naturally have a high carotene content and that helped give the cheese an orange hue anyway, plus the cheese making process would have concentrated that colour as well and there is nothing quite like seeing such wonderful cheese on the deli counter, ready to be purchased.
With so many yummy English cheeses coming from the Midlands region, the name needed changing as well as the appearance and we now have the delicious Red Leicester cheese for everyone all to enjoy.