by Zoë Björnson for USA TODAY 10Best

Do you know the origins of cheddar cheese?

While much of today’s cheddar is plastic-wrapped and tailor-made for the cheese aisle at your local grocery store, that wasn’t always the case. Originally made in a small village in England called Cheddar, the cheese itself was a happy accident.

According to the popular (though not necessarily true) narrative, back in the 1100s, a milkmaid took a pail of milk into a cave to keep it cool and forgot about it. When she returned the next day, voilà – the milk had hardened and cheddar was born.

Fast forward a few centuries to the 1800s, when cheddar had made its way over to the United States. All of the producers were making cheddar the traditional way – until cheesemaker Jesse Williams came along.

Williams and his family transformed the dairy industry by introducing the first cheese factory. With Williams on the scene, cheddar was now made by gathering milk from neighboring farms and producing the curd and the cheese onsite, in the same factory.

Cheddar cheese went from a farmer’s personal treat to a factory-made good. Throughout the years, the cheesemaking process continued to focus on efficiency over quality, resulting in cheese in that lasted increasingly longer – and looked "better," too.

As more and more cheese was produced, it began to vary in color as well. Color differences occur naturally depending on time of year or grazing habits of the cows, and the end product is not always the prettiest.

Farmers started to add annatto seed to give a consistent color to cheddar, hence the classic orange hue that appears everywhere – from those singles slices to artificial cheddar-flavored products like Kraft mac and cheese and Cheetos.

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