Learn About Red Leicester Cheese
Leicestershire is a county that sits right about in the middle of England (maybe why it is referred to as the midlands).
If I mention the names of the largest towns in the county, you would probably not recognize the names unless you lived there, but I think you might know one of its most famous cheese as Stilton, and after reading this page hopefully Red Leicester will be on your radar.
Red Leicester is a deep and unusual russet red, with a flaky and silky texture quite different from cheddar. It may also show with a slightly open interior. The flavor is savory with a slight nutty edge that finishes quite smooth and rich.
The deep red/orange color is the result of a pigment called annatto, that is added to the milk. The color is derived naturally from the achiote seed found in South America and has none of the health issues associated with some other food coloring agents. The annatto colorant is also referred to as roucou.
Today's traditionally made Red Leicesters, from some of the better producers such as Sparkenhoe, Long Clawson and Quenby Hall dairies, will have a drier texture and a mellower flavor. Many of the more commercial examples seem to be more in line with the cheddars that they make.
This cheese was historically known, and in it's rebirth known again, for it's complex and intriguing flavor, but at the same time balanced and smooth. It has a very full body and a flavor that lasts long but has none of the bite of an aged cheddar. The texture is moist but chewy and firm.
Formerly known as Leicester, or Leicestershire cheese, this is a hard cows’ milk cheese, possibly predating the cheddar name, when regional cheeses were made throughout the British Isles.
By comparison, it varies from Cheddar in that the Red Leicester has a moister, crumblier texture and a milder flavor.
Aged Leicestershire Red is normally larded, cloth-bound and matured for six months to produce a flaky, open texture cheese with a slightly sweet, caramelized flavor and rich golden orange color.
What makes the cheese so much different than cheddar (besides the red coloration) is the smaller cut and lower scald temp and cook time. The small cut reminds me more of the Italian Parma and Alpine style cheeses, but the cook temperature is much lower than cheddar, leaving a residual moistness in the final cheese. The scald or cook time is also much less for a higher final moisture.
Red Leicester matures faster than Cheddar, and may be sold as young as two months old, although the handful of traditional Red Leicester producers who still remain, age their cheeses for somewhat longer (6-9 months and even longer).
Red Leicester method of making was influenced by traditional cheese-making practices. It came about as a means to use up surplus and leftover milk from Stilton production, as it was a cheese that could last a little longer. Traditionally it was made by the Stilton dairies and local farms (and sometimes it still is).