There’s an undisputed leader for cheese. Have a guess. (Go ahead, but no points for the correct answer since it’s pretty obvious.) It isn’t mozzarella, brie, edam, and certainly not blue cheese. You probably guessed it from the title of the article — yes, it’s cheddar.
Cheddar’s signature sharp flavor is so popular that it’s become the preferred choice in commercially sold cheese slices (yes, those gorgeous golden layers in sandwiches we found in our school lunchboxes). But truth be told, how much does an average person know about cheddar aside from its delicious taste? Well, you’re in luck if you’ve always dreamed of learning more about the cheesy wonder. It’s time for cram session!
An Unusual History for a Remarkable Cheese
As with most cheese, cheddar’s exact history isn’t all that clear since there are countless methods of preparation. But generally speaking, cheddar’s long and illustrious story dates back to the 12th century in a quaint hamlet in Somerset, England.
Now, the strange thing about cheddar’s town of origin is that caves and grottos surround it. Legend has it that an absent-minded milkmaid left a bucket of her best milk inside one of those caves, and by the time she returned, it had fermented into the world’s first delicious cheddar.
Of course, cheddar has come a long way since that fortunate incident. Over the centuries, experts have developed and refined the cheese-making process.
One notable pioneer of the modern cheddar style was Joseph Harding — whom some refer to as the Father of Cheddar. Quite a proper title, we must say. It was only a matter of time before the delicious cheddar recipe arrived in the New World, which led to a regional adaptation that remains popular up to this day.
Typically, in America, aged cheddar features a bitter-sharp flavor that goes perfectly with fresh apple slices and grapes. The English variant offers a slightly more crumbly texture with acidic/sour notes.
Sharp Taste, You Say?
Yes, sharp. Picture a taste that penetrates and satisfies your tastebuds in a gastronomically fulfilling way. Well-aged cheddar offers a unique flavor that continues to change as it ages — becoming tangier and more deep-bodied in time. In fact, it’s much like fine wine. We aren’t saying that younger cheddar isn’t worth your time, but honestly, the vintage stuff will blow your mind.
Cool, How Is It Made?
Cheddar undergoes similar processes as other cheese types (i.e., cultured milk for acidity before adding rennets (the agent that curdles the liquid), whey drained, etc.) with an additional step known as cheddaring.
In cheddaring, experts lay the cheddar curds on a flat surface and flip them multiple times like a giant pancake. This action releases the remaining (stubborn) whey. Subsequently, the curds pass through a mill, reducing them into smaller and more manageable pieces. From here, cheese makers press the curds into molds for further draining before they undergo an aging process for that perfectly sharp taste.
Cheddar is a highly versatile ingredient that will level up a variety of dishes. Here are two mouthwatering inspirations (and reasons) to enhance your meals with a dose of cheddar.
Au Gratin Potatoes – freshly sliced potatoes simmered in an oven while inside a covered pot and topped with grated cheddar and breadcrumbs. The result? Brown and crispy treats that melt in your mouth, oozing flavor with every bite. Potatoes have never tasted this good.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich – there are few dishes as simple and satisfying as a well-prepared grilled cheese sandwich. The choice of sharp cheddar mixed with mayonnaise and dashes of salt and garlic powder will grant your palate an unforgettable experience.
Cheddar: Go Big or Go Home
At The Big Cheese, we offer 13-year-old extra-sharp cheddar straight from Wisconsin that will wow any respectable turophile (a fancy word for a bona fide cheese-lover). Imagine all that time taken in fine-tuning and maturing the addictive, sharp taste. It would cut any tension in the air at a party or social gathering. A single chunk of The Big Cheese’s cheddar would transform your ordinary backyard burger into a fine delicacy.
But theory lessons are over. It’s time to stop the chatter and start the cheddar. Choose a size and enjoy the brilliant taste savored by generations past and generations to come. We’ve got the 2.5-pounders ideal for short camping trips, 5-pounders for picnics, and the 40-pounder to satisfy the daily dietary needs of your family. With that said, welcome to The Big Cheese Family. Say Cheese!