Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar cheese is a staple at my house, but the kind I buy varies depending upon my mood and budget. There are two kinds of cheddar, those that a bandaged wrapped, and those that aren’t. Only a small percentage of cheddar is still made the traditional way, wrapped in cloth, exposed to the air so it can develop a rind and external mold. Bandaged wrapped cheddar is expensive (generally over $30 a pound) and for serving on a cheese plate rather than cooking. Needless to say, my everyday cheddar is not bandaged. I use cheddar on grilled cheese sandwiches, in macaroni and cheese, on top of chilli and baked potatoes. The following non-traditional cheddars are ones I buy. Kerrygold, the international brand of Irish Dairy Board offers aged cheddar, reserve cheddar and Skellig, a “sweet cheddar.” It’s a style that’s a bit different from the traditional English cheddar, less piquant but still with lots of complexity. It’s rich with notes of caramel and nuts. I wouldn’t call it sweet, but it has no sharp tang. I recently got samples of Old Croc Australian cheddar. As is the case with Irish cheddar, Australian cheddar is made from milk from only 100% grass fed cows. No hormones are allowed. Old Croc is available in sharp, aged 9 months and extra sharp aged 18 months. Both the sharp and extra sharp are classic white cheddars, not too crumbly and fairly mild, excellent for cooking and melting. I used the sharp for macaroni and cheese and it never developed that unpleasant grainy texture. Prior to 1850 practically all cheese produced in the US was cheddar. One of my favorite American cheddars comes from Wisconsin and is made by Tony Hook. I tried and purchased Hook’s 7 year cheddar at the Dane County farmer’s market in Madison but I’ve also found it at specialty cheese shops. If you want to see how cheddar changes flavor as it ages, Hook’s offers a staggering range of cheddars. They offer mild and medium cheddar as well as one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, ten, twelve and even a fifteen year aged cheddar. As the cheese ages more crunchy calcium lactate crystals develop and the cheese gets more complex and sharper. The 7 year is tangy yet still creamy. Most of Hook’s cheddar is colored with annatto, though some batches are natural. Do you have a favorite cheddar cheese?

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