Red Leicester: Is This Britain’s Greatest Cheese?

Red Leicester cheese from supermarket Iceland
A slab of Red Leicester from supermarket Iceland.

In the world of cheese, Red Leicester is one of the most famous in Blighty. If not the most famous cheese we have here!

As us Brits like dairy! We have cheese & onion crisps, cheese on toast, and many other recipes to go with that.

And Red Leicester ain’t that! It’s from Leicestershire. And we’re here to do a cheesy dive into its historical origins.

What’s Red Leicester?

It’s a cheese that’s similar to Cheddar, but it has a crumbly texture and is kind of a red, orange, and yellow hue.

Made out of cow milk, it’s matured over six-twelve months and then sold to hungry dairy enthusiasts.

That distinct look is achieved by a process of colouring, with orange added with annatto extract (an orange-red seed used for food colouring) during its production.

But, yes, Red Leicester is more orange than red. But, what the hey? That’s its name and it isn’t changing anytime soon.

As with Lancashire bomb cheese, Red Leicester has a kind of crumbly texture to it. And it’s strong and potent, as cheeses go.

It’s a tasty cheese! We like it. And it’s one of those things you just have around your household when you grow up in England.

You can add it to a baked potato, eat it with grapes, or have it in a quiche.

However, Red Leicester does have a reputation for being one of the “cheap” cheeses you can buy on the market. As in, it’s for working class reprobates.

You can get a big old slab of Red Leicester for like £1. So, it’s for those on a budget! Which doesn’t take away from its iconic status, of course.

What’s the History of Red Leicester Cheese?

As you might expect, Red Leicester hails from the historic county of Leicestershire in England’s Midlands.

It was produced on farms in the region, with records suggesting it was first made on Sparkenhoe Farm in 1745 by George Chapman.

As a side note, the farm still produces the cheese to this day. See video!

Back when it was first made, carrot or beetroot juice was used to add the orange colouring. They seemingly did this to make it distinct to other nationwide cheeses.

Plus, to begin with the farmers called it Leicestershire cheese. But it got a good old name change after a clash with another cheese called White Leicester.

White Leicester was produced during WWII due to food rationing, with the new flavour becoming popular.

So with a new cheese on the market, it became Red Leicester to differentiate it from its pallid brother.

And these days the stuff is mass produced, as witnessed by former Bottom and Young Ones star Ade Edmondson.

So, yes, you can find the stuff anywhere these days. It’s probably the most readily available cheese in England. Great news for dairy fans!

How Do You Make Red Leicester Cheese?

Well, you can go to the whole bother of making cheese if you want. Or you can just buy some from your local seller.

Cheese making is tough work, by the look of things! Takes a long old while to mature it all.

But, yeah, the general process of making cheese is as follows:

  • Preparing the Milk
  • Acidifying the Milk
  • Curdling the Milk
  • Cutting the Curd
  • Processing the Curd
  • Draining the Whey
  • Cheddaring the Cheese
  • Salting the Cheese

And if you add some orange juice into the mix along the way… it’ll be Red Leicester! Maybe. Seriously, we suggest you just buy some from a shop.

5 comments

  1. Cheese on toast sounds amazing, though I think we do that here and call it grilled cheese :p That is the only instance where I’ll eat tomato soup. Dipping the sandwich in the soup is so yummy. I usually use Gouda, but I’d absolutely try this British cheese!

    Liked by 1 person

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