Thursday, November 19, 2015

Barber's 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar

Barber's 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar ("VRC") is a PDO West Country Farmhouse Cheddar. To be a West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, the cheese has to: (a) be made from milk of cows reared and milked in the English counties of Somerset, Dorset, Devon or Cornwall; (b) contain no coloring, flavoring or preservatives; (c) be made by hand in the traditional method using the process known as "cheddaring" where cheddar curds are turned by hand in open vats; and (d) be aged at least nine months.  PDO is an acronym for Protected Designation of Origin, a status granted by the European Union to cheeses and to other kinds of products. As it relates to cheese, the PDO designation protects the use of that cheese name for cheese made in a particular region that are made using traditional methods.

The Barber family is the longest operating cheddar producer in the world. They have been making cheese at Maryland Farm in Ditcheat, Somerset, England, since 1833 (where the name for the 1833 cheese comes from). They are 13 miles from Cheddar, England, the village that gave its name to Cheddar cheese. The Barbers own 10 dairy farms totaling 2,500 acres of land and 2,000 Holstein Friesian cows. They get additional milk from other local herds. The character of the cheese comes from starter cultures that are unique to the Barber family. The cultures were developed from bacteria found in local milk and have been refined over the years to isolate the best strains. The cultures are added to the milk to start the cheese-making process. Cheese batches are started at 3:00 a.m. each morning with culture being added to the milk. The mixture is pumped into individual cheese vats, rennet is added, and the milk coagulates. The solid curds are separated from the liquid whey and the curd is cut and turned by hand, the process which is known as "cheddaring." This allows the cheese maker to feel the curd and make any necessary changes. About 5:00 a.m. the curd is tasted and salt is added to preserve and control development of the cheese. The curd is then pressed into blocks, starting at about 8:30 p.m. The cheese is kept in wooden boxes in stacks. After three months each block is graded by an expert and the 1833 is selected from those blocks of the best quality. The cheeses that age for 12 months are known as farmhouse cheddar, for 16 months are extra mature cheddar and for two years or more are the 1833. 1833 was named best mature cheddar at the 2012 World Cheese awards and is the only UK Cheddar to make it into the top 50 world cheeses. calls it creamy and sharp, with both "savory and naturally sweet notes." It also has hints of caramel and toffee. calls it "deliciously creamy." says it has a "rich, intense flavor, finishing off with smooth, creamy and crunchy texture." says it has a "smooth, creamy texture with nut and fruit flavors." calls it "creamy and sharp with a little bit of sweet tone."

Anshu Pathak, who sells cheese in addition to exotic meats, provided me with some of the 1833. We found it relatively crumbly. Each taste produces a brief crystally crunch with the rich, intense flavor mentioned above, made much more-so if you bite and chew, as opposed to letting it sit and melt in your mouth. Very strong, very wonderful. No question it is Cheddar. 


  1. They start every batch at 3:00 AM?? Yikes. I did love the bit of crystallization in this yummy cheese, which is something I don't usually associate with cheddar.

  2. Since 1833? That's quite a long commitment to cheese-making. No wonder they do it well!