sharp-cheddarA Wisconsin cheesemaker just discovered a forgotten 40 year old block of
cheddar cheese. That’s one old cheese! To give you an idea, a mild cheddar is
generally aged two to three months, and your average grocery store sharp cheddar is aged
about one year, and extra sharp cheddars are aged three to five years.
Specialty cheese shops might have 13-15 year old cheddars, but 40 year old
cheese might be a new record. The cheese is included in a collection of some of
the oldest cheese ever sold according to the Wisconsin
State Journal.

What’s so special about old cheese, really?  

As cheddar cheese matures a few things happen. First, it gets sharper, a
sharp cheese is the kind of cheese that when you bite in to it, it bites back.
The flavor is prominent and assertive, unlike mild cheeses that have a more
subtle flavor.

In addition to the flavor change, the texture also changes. Some aged
cheeses develop tiny calcium deposits that form crunchy crystals in the cheese.
I like this added texture, but some people don’t. This particular 40 year old
cheddar reportedly had an inch worth of calcium deposits on the outside, but
the inside was still fairly creamy. Aged cheddar develops a crumbly texture as
it gets older, while mild cheddar is on the creamier side.

Taste Test

Sharper isn’t necessarily better, it all depends on what you like. The best
way to find out what you like is to taste a variety of cheddars of different
ages side by side. Stick with cheese from one dairy so you have a fair base for
comparison. I recommend Hook’s cheddar because they have cheddars that are aged
five years or more, and if you’re not
near a place that carries Hook’s cheddar, you can order it online here.

I used to think the sharper the better, but after preforming this taste test
I discovered I prefer cheddars in the three to five year range. I don’t enjoy
the older cheddars as much, some of them are so sharp I need to get out the
tongue band-aids!

A Note About Cooking with Cheese

If you’re cooking with cheese, like baking it in a casserole or making a
pizza, don’t use the expensive artisan cheddar. Artisan cheeses are meant to be
savored on their own or maybe with a cracker, some jam or a little fruit. The
cooking process changes the texture and you can’t taste the subtleties in the
flavor when the cheese is combined with other ingredients. Plus if you walk into
a fancy cheese shop and ask for a cheese to put on a pizza they will look at
you funny, I know from experience.

 

What kind of cheddar do you prefer? Mild? Sharp? Extra Sharp?