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Sorry Ireland: 'Red cheddar' doesn't really exist

Aaand your whole life is a lie.

Source: DailyEdge.ie

DO YOU BUY red cheddar or white cheddar? Everyone has one they prefer. It’s like King and Tayto, or Barry’s and Lyons.

Red cheddar is a bit of an Irish institution. It’s a glorious comfort food.

People have an allegiance to it.

It’s one of those Irish things people yearn for when they’re abroad.

And Ireland loves it. We buy a lot more red cheddar in Irish supermarkets than white. A spokesperson for Tesco Ireland told DailyEdge.ie:

According to sales in our 149 Tesco stores in Ireland, shoppers prefer red cheddar with over two times more red cheddar sold than white.

But here’s the thing: ‘red cheddar’ doesn’t really exist. In the sense that it’s exactly the same as white cheddar.

It just has food colouring in it.

Er… what?

Yes. Cheddar is naturally pale in colour, and red cheddar is just white cheddar which has been coloured red. Kevin Sheridan of Sheridan’s Cheesemongers told DailyEdge.ie:

In the main in modern Irish cheddar, there’s no difference. The red is only a dye added.

So there’s no difference in taste at all? The dye doesn’t have a flavour or anything?

None whatsoever.

To recap: The two types of cheese in the supermarket are literally the same cheese in different colours.

Source: richard_north

So why are there two kinds?

Back in the day, says Sheridan, there was a better reason for colouring the cheese: it was to distinguish two cheeses that were made slightly differently, but would have looked similar on the shop counter.

The story is that one Cheshire [cheese] makers coloured one of the Cheshires to identify them to the market. It was actually their lower quality cheese that they coloured at first. But they found that people really liked it, so they put it in all of them [their cheeses].

‘Red Cheshire’ soon became a recognisable brand. A similar process occurred in Leicester, where the cheese was coloured to distinguish it from cheddar (which is similar but less crumbly).

Source: Wikipedia

But why do Irish cheese companies dye half their cheese red, and not the other half? Simply because Irish consumers want it, says Sheridan.

“People just find it nice,” he says. “If you’ve got a product, and you find that people will go for the red ones, you’ve got to have it available.”

Is it just an Irish thing then, or what?

Kind of, yes.

You can get red cheddar elsewhere – Scotland for example. But having multiple brands of cheese in red and white versions – both of which are exactly the same – is very Irish.

Over in the UK, says Sheridan, there is more demand for a variety of local cheeses. In the supermarket, he says, “you’re more likely to have different types of cheese – red Cheshire, red Leicester, and then a cheddar that will always be white. Whereas in Ireland it’s all cheddar.” So to create a variety, some of it is dyed red.

For no reason other than that people want it to be red.

Hang on, hang on. I don’t really believe you. SURELY they have different ingredients or something?

OK, OK. To take one brand, here are the ingredients for Dubliner white cheddar:

And here are the ingredients for Dubliner red cheddar:

Exactly the same, but with added red colour.

Ireland, you are living a lie. Sorry.

Source: Giphy

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About the author:

Michael Freeman

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