Annatto food colouring is vegetable based and used many food stuffs, including cheese making. It gives a lovely orange, yellow or red colour to cheese. Making the old saying ‘We eat with ours eyes’ is very true.
With cheese, the yellow and orange hues will naturally vary throughout the year as the animals food changes. In spring and summer months, with lush, fresh grass and its natural carotene content, milk contains a natural orange tint. At other times of the year, the tint is slightly lighter. This yellow and orange pigment is carried in the cream. Farmers skimmed the milk to make delicious, rich looking butter to be sold separately. Homemade butter, clotted and double cream is a real treat.
England is among many countries, worldwide, using annatto to colour cheeses. Famous cheeses like Red Gloucester, from as early as the 16th century, used annatto. Later it was subsequently adopted in other parts of the UK, for cheeses like Cheshire, Red Leicester and a delicious coloured Cheddar made in Scotland.
Finally, most cheddars today are produced in white, red and orange varieties. The only difference between them the amount of annatto present.