So, you want to know, why is Cheddar cheese orange in America?
Then again, outside of America, you may have noticed that cheddar cheese is occasionally orange, and yet sometimes it’s yellow.
But, regardless of where you get cheddar from in America, you’ll find that it is always orange.
So, what exactly is going on here?
Allow me to reveal the real reasons behind American orange cheddar cheese.
A Slice of Americana: Why Orange Cheddar Will Always Have a Special Place in Our Hearts (and Stomachs)
Cheddar cheese is often orange in America due to the addition of annatto, a natural food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree. Originally, this coloring was added to imitate the natural hue of high-quality cheddar made from the milk of grass-fed cows, which tended to have a slight yellow-orange tint.
Can a Cow’s Diet Turn Cheddar Cheese Orange?
That’s right, the color of cheddar cheese initially comes down to a cow’s diet.
Cheddar cheese can actually cast its origins back to the 12th century in a small village called Cheddar, England, UK.
However, fast-forward to the 17th century, and even the English cheddar cheese produced was orange in color.
This actually comes down to the fresh grass in the spring months, which was the mainstay of a cow’s diet.
Grass in the spring is typically high in beta-carotene, which would produce an orange pigment in cow’s milk.
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|1️⃣||Cheddar||😮 Cheddar can be aged up to 10 years for an intense flavor!|
|2️⃣||Mozzarella||🍕 Mozzarella is the most consumed cheese due to its use on pizza!|
|3️⃣||Swiss||🕳️ The holes in Swiss cheese are caused by carbon dioxide released during the fermentation process!|
|4️⃣||Provolone||🇮🇹 Provolone originated in Southern Italy and comes in two varieties: dolce and piccante!|
|5️⃣||Gouda||🇳🇱 Gouda accounts for over half of the cheese production inthe Netherlands and can be aged up to 36 months! 🎉|
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Beta-carotene is actually a natural pigment and the same one that gives carrots their color.
However, during the winter months, cows would feed on hay, which meant the levels of beta-carotene were significantly reduced.
This, of course, would mean more white/yellow cheddar cheese.
So, in effect, cheddar cheese could be orange or yellow, depending on the time of year.
With that being said, even back in 17th century England, the orange color of cheddar cheese became a marker for quality.
So, it wasn’t long before cheese producers decided to add pigment to create a more orange-looking cheddar.
This was generally done through the addition of saffron, carrot juice, or marigold.
Does Food Coloring Make Cheddar Cheese Orange?
Cheddar cheese had typically always been a farm-made product.
However, when people came over from England to the land that would eventually be known as America, they brought cheddar with them.
Furthermore, they also introduced cheddar-making to the U.S.
All cheese continued to be made on a farm up until 1851 when the Williams family developed the first cheddar factory.
With that being said, America’s main cheddar production is now located in both Wisconsin and Vermont.
The Wisconsin cheddar has typically always been known to be creamier and sweeter when compared to the bitter and sharp taste of Vermont.
However, cheesemakers wanted the color to remain uniform all year round.
In order to achieve this, the food coloring and condiment, annatto, was added to cheddar cheese.
Annatto comes from the seeds of the achiote tree but can also be found in paprika.
The practice of using annatto to color cheddar orange has remained and is still used today.
Annatto won’t affect the flavor or texture of cheddar but simply disguises the color of the cheese.
Basically, this was an easy way to ensure that all cheddar cheese produced in America looked exactly the same.
How Cheddar Cheese is Made in a Factory – The Process
- Cheddar cheese in America is always orange because food coloring, specifically annatto, is added to keep the color uniform all year round.
- The color of cheddar cheese initially comes down to a cow’s diet, which can produce either an orange or yellow cheese depending on the time of year and what the cow is eating.
- Cheddar cheese production in America started with cheddar-making brought over from England, and cheesemakers wanted the color to remain uniform all year round, leading to the use of annatto.
- The orange color of cheddar cheese became a marker for quality even during the original manufacture of cheddar cheese in the UK.
- Annatto won’t affect the flavor or texture of cheddar but simply disguises the color of the cheese.
So, as you can see, cheddar cheese is orange in America due to the addition of the food coloring annatto.
With that being said, cheddar cheese can actually differ in color depending on a cow’s diet.
During the spring months, fresh grass contains beta-carotene, which produces an orange pigment in cow’s milk.
However, when cows eat hay in the winter months, beta-carotene is dramatically reduced.
And it is this that produces a whiter or yellow cheese.
But, even during the original manufacture of cheddar cheese in the UK, it was felt that orange cheddar was a marker for higher quality.
As for cheddar production in America, manufacturers wanted to keep the color uniform all year round, hence the use of annatto.
Are you ready to embark on a delicious journey into the world of cheddar? 🧀💖
Talking of the color of cheese, I have written an interesting article on why there is sometimes a white coating on Cheddar.