The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 10.20.04


There's nothing quite like a nice cheddar

It is the season of soups. As leaves flutter to the ground and October skies predict the first swirling flakes of snow we turn to dishes that warm and comfort us.

A recent drive south through the Adirondacks had me pondering table offerings that would celebrate this season. Surely there is something I can do with all those apples I still have from a trip to the orchard.

And what about that wonderful piece of cheddar that I picked up in Vermont?

I've made the pies and crumble and have been yearning for a steaming bowl of autumn goodness.

I'm not sure what makes Vermont cheddar so good but, combined with a few local apples, you've got a dish fit for a king or queen. As history reveals, cheddar has been coveted for centuries and has established itself as the cheese of choice for northerners.

Here is what some had to say accompanied by an indication of how cheddar made its first voyage to the Americas.

"A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be over-sophisticated. Yet it remains, cheese, milk's leap toward immortality." Clifton Fadiman (American writer and editor; New Yorker book reviewer)

"A dinner which ends without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye." Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)

History of Cheddar Cheese

Legend has it that cheddar cheese was discovered accidentally when a Cheddar (Somerset England) village milkmaid left a pail of milk for safety in a cave. Later the milkmaid returned to find that the milk had returned to a new tasty substance and Cheddar cheese was born.

Certainly cheese making was well established more than 800 years ago. King Henry II declared Cheddar cheese to be the best in Britain, and the Great Roll of the Pipe (the king's accounts) records that in 1170 the king purchased 10,240 pounds of Cheddar cheese at a cost of a farthing per pound. Cheddar cheese was so liked that the king's son, the famous Prince John, purchased a similar amount in 1184. By the reign of Charles I, the parliamentary records show that such was the demand at court for cheese made at Cheddar, that it was 'bespoke' -- that is, the cheese was already sold before it was even made. It was then only available at the court.

During her reign Queen Victoria was presented with a large cheddar cheese made from the milk of over 700 cows.

In 1901 the village of Cheddar was chosen to dispatch an order of 3500 lbs. of cheese to Captain Scot (Royal Navy) aboard the ship "Discovery" for his famous Antarctic Expedition.

Cheddar soup fit for royalty and explorers? I think your guests or family deserve some too.

Adirondack Apple, Potato & Cheddar Soup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium Macintosh apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/8-teaspoon ground thyme
1/4 cup white wine
5 cups chicken broth
4 cups grated cheddar cheese (I prefer extra old or sharp)
1/2-cup heavy cream
1/8-teaspoon nutmeg
1/8-teaspoon white pepper
I cup diced unpeeled apple for garnish

In a large pot, heat oil. Add apples, potato, celery, onion, and thyme. Sauté 10 minutes. Stir in wine and simmer 2 minutes, add broth and simmer 45 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, puree soup mixture. Return to pot. Over very low heat, stir in cheese, cream, nutmeg, and pepper. Cook just until heated through -- do not boil or cheese will curdle. Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with diced apples. Serves six.