Cheddar and old english are two of the most popular cheeses, especially in countries like the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
But what exactly are the differences between old english cheese and cheddar cheese?
A Brief History of Old English Cheese
Old english cheese originated in England, hence the name. It's actually a blend of cheddar and colby cheeses that was developed to have a tangy, sharp flavor.
The exact origins are unclear, but old english cheese likely started being produced in the early 1900s in England. It was then exported to the United States and Canada where it really took off in popularity.
By the 1970s, old english was mass produced by major dairy companies like Kraft. It became a staple ingredient at many fast food restaurants and diners, especially on burgers and sandwiches.
Today, old english is still commonly used by restaurants and food service companies. But it can be harder to find in grocery stores compared to the past. Fans of old english cheese have to search it out at deli counters or order it online.
The History of Cheddar Cheese
Cheddar cheese has a much longer history than old english. It originated in the village of Cheddar in England. Historical records show cheddar cheese was already being produced in this region by the 12th century.
For centuries, cheddar was made by local farmers in the Cheddar Gorge region. The specific caves around Cheddar provided the ideal environment for aging the cheese with cool, stable temperatures.
Over time, cheddar production spread across England, becoming the country's most popular cheese. It was later exported to countries like America and Australia where it also grew very popular.
Today, cheddar remains one of the most consumed cheeses worldwide. Although much cheddar is now mass produced, the original artisanal cheddars from England are still considered the finest and most authentic.
Comparing the Taste and Texture
The taste and texture of old english versus cheddar cheese are noticeably different:
- Old english has a smooth, creamy texture. The taste is tangy and sharp, but still milder compared to aged cheddars. It melts very easily.
- Cheddar has a firmer, crumblier texture that can vary from soft to very hard. The taste ranges from mild to very sharp depending on age. Generally, cheddar is more flavorful than old english.
The key difference is that old english is a processed cheese made from a blend of young cheddar and colby. This gives it its smooth, melty properties.
Cheddar is a natural cheese that develops stronger flavor and crumbliness through aging. So cheddar tends to be more complex in taste compared to the milder old english.
The Color Difference
Another obvious difference is color. Traditional cheddar ranges from white to pale yellow. Old english is typically brighter orange or yellow.
The color of cheddar comes from the type of cow's milk used. Beta-carotene in the milk causes the yellowish hue. Cows that eat more grass and hay produce milk with more carotene.
With old english, additional coloring agents are added like annatto to make it more yellow and orange. This was done largely for visual appeal, as many consumers came to expect a bright orange cheese color.
So while cheddar's color is natural, old english derives its color from added coloring agents during processing. The colors don't affect the actual flavors.
Common Uses for Each Cheese
Old english and cheddar are used in some similar ways, but also have differences:
- Old english is commonly used for cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, mac and cheese, cheese dips, cheese sauces, etc. Its creamy, melty properties make it ideal for melting.
- Cheddar is excellent by itself as a snacking cheese. It's also used on burgers, sandwiches, omelets, salads, cheese platters and in cooking. But extra-aged cheddars may not melt as smoothly.
- Cheddar tends to have broader uses since it comes in various aging levels from mild to sharp. Old english has a more specific melty, gooey purpose.
So in general, old english is preferred for melty uses like grilled cheese. Cheddar works well as a melting cheese but also as a standalone snack cheese.
The nutrition profile of these two cheeses is fairly comparable:
- Old english has around 110 calories and 9g fat per ounce. It provides calcium, protein, Vitamin A and some other nutrients. However, it is high in sodium (around 170mg per ounce).
- Cheddar also has about 110 calories and 9g of fat per ounce. It offers a similar amount of calcium and protein. Aged cheddar tends to be lower in sodium, around 70-120mg per ounce.
Keep in mind nutrition varies based on factors like milk type, fat content and aging. But overall, old english and cheddar both provide protein, calcium and essential Vitamin A. However, sodium content is quite high in both.
Old english cheese is significantly cheaper than most cheddars. Individually wrapped slices are around $3-4 per pound. Bulk deli blocks can cost $5-8 per pound.
Cheddar pricing has a wider range. Standard commercial cheddar is $4-6 per pound. Artisan imported English cheddars can cost $15 per pound or even higher depending on factors like age, quality and rarity.
So old english is the more affordable option for melting cheese slices. Cheddar can be pricier, especially for imported English varieties aged for years that provide premium flavor and texture.
One challenge with old english cheese is that it can be harder to find today than in the past. Your best bets for finding it are:
- Check deli counters at major grocery stores and supermarkets. Ask at the cheese counter.
- Search big warehouse stores like Costco, Sam's Club or Restaurant Depot. They sometimes carry it.
- Order online from cheese suppliers or Amazon. Buying in bulk saves money.
- Ask local sub and sandwich shops if they will sell you some. Many restaurants order it in bulk.
Cheddar is widely available at any grocery store. For niche imported cheddars, check cheese shops or order online.
Using Old English Cheese as a Cheddar Substitute
Since cheddar is so ubiquitous, it's common for recipes to call specifically for cheddar. If you only have old english cheese on hand, here are some tips for using it as a cheddar substitute:
- In cooked recipes, old english can work well instead of cheddar since it melts smoothly. However, expect a milder flavor.
- For eating raw, old english won't provide the same sharpness or firmness as aged cheddar. Stick to young, milder cheddar for a closer match.
- Try mixing old english with other cheeses like parmesan or asiago to make up for its mildness. This works well in baked dishes.
- Reduce any additional salt in a recipe since old english is quite high in sodium already compared to many cheddars.
- For superior flavor and texture, seek out a high-quality white cheddar, which is closer to old english than aged orange cheddar.
While it won't be exactly the same, old english can mimic some uses of cheddar in cooking. Just keep the flavor differences in mind. Combining old english with other cheeses helps boost its sharpness.
Substituting Cheddar for Old English
You can also go the other way and use cheddar as a substitute for old english. Here are some pointers:
- For melty purposes like grilled cheese, opt for a young, mild cheddar. Aged cheddar may separate or get grainy when melted.
- To add color, mix in a small amount of cheese with added coloring like colby jack. Or add a pinch of turmeric or annatto powder.
- Process or blend the cheddar first to improve its melting properties. Sodium citrate powder helps cheddar and other cheeses melt smoothly.
- Try combining cheddar with cream cheese or american cheese. This makes it creamier and improves meltability.
- Use a white cheddar variety if you want a closer match to old english without overly sharp flavor.
While not a perfect substitute, mild cheddar cheeses can work well in place of old english in cooked recipes by adjusting the color, flavor and texture.
Popular Brands of Old English Cheese and Cheddar
There are many brand names for cheddar and old english cheese. Here are some of the major mass-market brands along with top artisanal cheddar producers:
Old English Cheese Brands
- Land O'Lakes
- Cracker Barrel
Cheddar Cheese Brands
- Black Bomber (England)
- Keen's Cheddar (England)
- Westcombe Cheddar (England)
- Montgomery's Cheddar (England)
Within cheddar, English brands like Keen's are renowned for traditional handmade cheeses. Tillamook and Cabot are also well-respected American cheddar makers.
For old english, Kraft is probably the most recognized mass market producer. Land O'Lakes also makes a popular deli version.
How to Make Your Own Old English and Cheddar Cheese
With some effort, you can even make homemade versions of these iconic cheeses:
To make old english cheese:
- Blend together cheddar and colby cheese shreds along with some fresh cheese curds.
- Gradually heat while stirring in butter, whole milk, salt and emulsifying salts.
- Continue heating and stirring until fully melted and smooth.
- Optional: add annatto powder or cheddar cheese powder for more color.
- Pour into a mold, refrigerate until firm and slice.
To make cheddar cheese:
- Heat milk, add culture, rennet and salt to form the curds and whey.
- Cut curds, drain the whey, then cheddar or press the curds together.
- Mill the curds and mix in salt.
- Press into blocks and age at 55°F or so for months to develop cheddar flavor.
- Age longer for sharper flavor.
- The traditional cheddaring process involves stacking slabs of drained curds on top of each other and flipping at intervals to promote whey drainage.
Making your own true cheddar requires time and some serious skills. But homemade old english is more achievable. With both, you control the ingredients and quality.
Is old english cheese real cheese?
Technically, no. Old english contains less than 51% actual cheese (cheddar and colby) since other ingredients are added. U.S. regulations say it is an "American cheese product" rather than true cheese. But it very similar to real cheese.
Why does old english cheese taste different than cheddar?
The mixing and heating process gives old english cheese a milder, tangier flavor compared to sharper aged cheddars. The addition of emulsifying salts also impacts the taste.
What's the difference between white and orange cheddar?
The main difference is color. White cheddar comes from uncolored milk. Coloring agents like annatto are added to make orange cheddar, but don't change the flavor.
Can you freeze old english and cheddar cheese?
Yes, both freeze well for up to 6 months if properly wrapped. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using. The texture may become slightly crumblier.
What's the oldest cheddar cheese?
According to Guinness World Records, the oldest cheddar ever sold was made in 1870. The longest aged currently marketable cheddar is 15 or 20 years old. Very old cheddar develops a crystalline texture and potent flavor.
Old english and cheddar are two of the most beloved cheeses thanks to their delicious flavors and versatility.
Cheddar has a long pedigree as one of England's iconic cheeses, while old english is a younger American invention designed for smooth melting.
While their tastes, textures and uses differ, both play starring roles in dishes like burgers, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, sandwiches and appetizers.
Cheddar is more widely used due to its variety from mild to extra sharp. Old english is the go-to for that nostalgic melted cheese experience.