In Defense of Cheddar
At the cheese counter, we often hear, “I want to try a cheese, but not a cheddar. Cheddar is boring.” It isn’t surprising that people believe cheddar is just meh. It’s always been available to us, whether in precut slices from the deli, or in cryovaced blocks from the grocery store. When I was in college, a friend would give me cheddar that was just called Super Sharp in one pound blocks and I’d happily chow down. The proliferation of cheddar, some of it interesting but a lot of it one-note like my Super Sharp, makes us think that cheddar is nothing special.
Today, I’m going to bust that myth that all cheddar is a dull dud! (Quick side note: even though I’m talking about the cheddars we have from small producers as more exciting than the grocery store variety, I still firmly believe there is a place for all of these cheddars in the marketplace. And our hearts.) Most of the cheddars we have at the shop are clothbound meaning they are wrapped, or bandaged, in cloth. This is an old technique of English origin, that allows the cheese to aerate but not completely dry out, creating a complex flavor. Clothbound cheddars tend to be earthier than their cryovaced cousins, and then the flavors of cheddars from the British Isles and America diverge (sort of)
Cheddars from the UK like Hafod, Quicke’s Clothbound Goat Cheddar, and Isle of Mull are savory and tart/sharp like cranberries. Cheddars from the US, like Flory’s Truckle, Shelburne Clothbound Cheddar, and Cabot Clothbound Black Label, tend to be sweeter and sharp like sourdough bread. From there, each of these cheddars has it’s own crazy combinations of tastes. They are the kinds of cheeses that you take one bite, and then quickly another, because there’s so much going on. If you’re worried that your guests might be unimpressed if you bring out a large wedge of cheddar for party, don’t even tell them what it is until they’ve tried it. One of the most fun moments on the cheese counter is when a customer’s eyes light up with delight and tell us they never knew cheddar could taste so good.
For the love of cheese and cheddar forever,