Unlike many of our cheeses, Caerphilly is a relatively recent creation, probably first produced in the 1830s. Until then the coal miners of South Wales enjoyed a nice bit of cheddar down the pits, but Caerphilly supplanted it because of its fresh taste, softer texture, and not least because of its saltiness, helpful in replacing salt lost in hard physical labour.
Caerphilly was in another way an early convenience food, made in relatively small rounds – about six inches diameter, two inches or so thick. And it was convenient for the farmers too, as it required far shorter maturing time – less than a fortnight compared to months for cheddar. It was such a success that cheddar makers over the border added it to their range, or switched to it entirely.
Farmhouse production was abruptly halted during WWII . Caerphilly kept badly, so didn’t suit wartime requirements, thus the authorities directed makers to change to cheddar, and in some cases Cheshire cheese making.
The cheese has made a comeback in recent decades. Some is made harder than was originally the case, but some of the harder-inside-softer edges type is available. It is salty, with a bit of citrus bite, and pleasantly buttery.