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What’s in a name?




There are 1000s of varieties of cheese, all with their own name ranging from the mundane to the utterly unique. The world’s second most popular cheese, Cheddar, originated in Cheddar Somerset. Proof that an uncomplicated name can lead to world domination!

Nobody really knows when cheesemaking began. Most likely its practice started around the time we began to domesticate livestock around 8000 years ago. The word ‘cheese’ is taken from Old English word ‘cyse,’ which when you follow its etymology, you arrive at the Proto-Indo-European word ‘kwat’ which means to ferment and become sour.

Crowdie was the favourite cheese of Scottish crofters, and is potentially Scotland’s oldest variety dating back to the Vikings. The name was first given to the traditional dish of oatmeal and water that was a regular meal in the old Scottish diet. The word ‘crowdie’ stems from ‘crud’ which meant then same back then as it does today. While oats and water may well have been a staple – and cheap – diet for crofters, it would appear that the prospect of the same meal day-in-day -out led to it receiving this less than glamorous name. When crofters began to eat a low fat cheese with their crowdie, it became so synonymous with it that it adopted the crowdie moniker.


How can we leave out Stinking Bishop in a list of cheese names? Such a great name and people tend to assume it had religious connotations, when in fact quite the opposite is true. The cheese itself was created by Charles Martell from the milk of his very own Gloucestershire cattle. The distinctive smell comes from the rind which is washed in a cider made from Stinking Bishop pear. The pear – and by result cheese – was named after a farmer called Frederick Bishop, a man famed for his anger when under the influence. His temper was so renowned that he had the word ‘Stinking’ added to his name by local residents!


Mozzarella originates from southern Italy, the name itself first mentioned in the 16th century by the renowned renaissance chef Bartolomeo Scappi who wrote the gloriously named cookbook ‘The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi’ (1570). In an earlier book he first mentions mozzarella when he writes: “milk cream, fresh butter, ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella and milk”, the name coming from the verb mozzare (to cut.)

There’s Yarg, which sounds like perfect pirate food. There are all manner of possibilities for how this nettle wrapped British cheese got its name, yet it’s simply ‘gray’ spelt backwards, the gray for Allan and Jenny Gray who created the recipe.


Lots of cheeses with lots of names. What’s your favourite cheese name? Let us know in the comments box.

Bye for now.

The Big Cheese Making Kit

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