Red Leicester is a mild, firm cows' milk cheese from England. It is somewhat crumbly in texture. Red Leicester is made in a similar manner to Cheddar.
The cheese is orange in color, due to the vegetable colorant annatto being added to the cheese during production. The rind is reddish orange, and may have some powdery mold on it. Red Leicester is usually aged 4 to 9 months. Older versions of the cheese have a stronger flavor and drier texture than younger versions.
Red Leicester has been made since the 17th century. It was originally called Leicestershire, named after the county in England where it originated. As the city of Leicester became more and more important in the marketing of the cheese, the cheese became known as Leicester. After World War II the cheese became known as Red Leicester.
Today, most Red Leicester is made outside of Leicestershire County. The cheese is made in both large creameries and smaller dairies. Smaller facilities generally make the more traditional Red Leicester, which is shaped into wheel-shaped cheeses. Industrially-made Red Leicester is often made into brick-shaped cheeses, more suitable for slicing. The brick-shaped cheeses are more mild and moist than the wheel-shaped cheeses. Farm-made cheeses also have a more complex flavor and are more crumbly.
You can read more about this cheese at the British Cheese Board's Red Leicester page. We also recommend visiting the site of the Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Co, who actually make the cheese in Leicestershire under the brand name of Sparkenhoe.
Where to buy
In the United States Red Leicester is not very easy to find. Kerrygold (an Irish brand) exports to the U.S. and you may find that brand in high-end grocery stores. You may also find Sparkenhoe Red Leicester exported from Neal's Yard Dairy, if you live near a shop that carries their cheese.
amazon.com also sells Red Leicester.