Monday, October 14, 2013

Red Leicester Cheese

Red Leicester is cheese made from cow's milk with a reddish color from added annatto, a vegetable die made from the husk of the fruit of the annatto tree which is found in South America and the Caribbean. Red Leicester was originally made in Leicester, England, starting in the 17th century. The added coloring was originally provided by carrot or beet juice and was a way of distinguishing it from cheeses made in other parts of England. There are no legal requirements that it be made in Leicester, or even England, and there are apparently versions of it produced in North America. Leicester, where I spent a little time as an LDS missionary 37 years ago, is the same area that Stilton is made. Red Leicester was originally made from surplus milk once all of the desired Stilton was made, as Red Leicester has a longer shelf life than Stilton. Red Leicester is made in a similar manner to cheddar, but it is more moist, crumby, and mild. Most counties in England had a cheese using the county name. Counties in the south and southwest of England usually had recipes evolving from Cheddar cheese, such as Gloucestershire. Counties in the north of England usually had recipes evolving from Cheshire cheese, such as Lancashire. Leicestershire cheese, which Red Leicester was originally called, was sometimes described as a cross between Cheshire and Cheddar cheese.
I got the cheese from Trader Joe's. It was made in England and had added chili and red bell pepper. The chili and red pepper provided even more of a reddish tint than pictures of Red Leicester without those ingredients I've seen on the internet. I found it very soft, with quite a bit of crunch from the bell pepper and a little bit of heat from the chili. The traditional Red Leicester is made from unpasteurized milk, and this was not, but likely because of U.S. regulations making importation of unpasteurized cheeses difficult. It is aged anywhere from 3 to 12 months and I am assuming this is on the lower end of the scale as the age is not listed. I enjoyed it, but it is not a cheese I would jump on regularly. 

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