Photographed and written by Jenny Bravo
Clothbound cheddar is a cheddared cheese that, as the name suggests, has been wrapped with cotton cloth; a material that releases just enough moisture as the cheese ages to produce a firm rind and crumbly texture. It has long been thought that the method comes from the UK, although current research suggests that the prolific American cotton industry influenced the selection of the widely available textile, making clothbound cheddar an American invention. But while the origins of cloth-binding remain in question, there is no denying that the cheese itself originates from the town of Cheddar, in the county of Somerset, England.
Today, binding cheddar in cloth has been largely abandoned in favor of moisture- sealing wax or plastic, leaving the more labor-intensive and expensive production method to be adopted by artisan producers eager to preserve tradition.
Clothbound cheddar is truly a one-of-a-kind cheese with flavor notes that vary greatly depending on the cow’s milk used and how long producers choose to age the cheese. What remains constant is the unique texture and earthy flavors that cannot be found in traditional cheddar. Whether you side with the English or American claim to clothbound cheddar, everyone can agree this classic cheese is distinctly different.