Cheddar...What is it precisely?
First and foremost, cheddar is a style of cheese. Traditional Cheddar reigns from Cheddar England, and is characterized by being wrapped in cloth as well as having a lovely earthy taste and aroma. North American cheddar cheese tends to be quite different. These cheeses range anywhere from small production farmhouse cheddars to industry cheddars. Yet, all these cheddars are similar in that the curds are cooked and go through a cheddaring process. This process involves additional cutting of the cheese curds. They are further cut to expelling more whey and giving the cheese that typical crumbly cheddar texture. These cheeses then are either wrapped in cloth, cryovaced (vacuum sealed), wax covered, or just left to form a natural rind. Now, the biggest question I get in regards to cheddar is about their sharpness. So here we go. Cheese, as it ages changes flavor and texture, for example ever wonder why there are sprinkles of salt in your cheese? Well, turns out it is the protein in the cheese just crystalizing. Cheese, how you make my heart flutter. Now what sometimes attributes to that sharp bite in cheddars is actually the amount of salt in the recipe; for the salt exaggerates that harsh bite. Yet, what has the biggest affect on the sharpness actually comes from the length of time the cheddar is aged. The longer cheese ages the more moisture it loses and the more robust the flavor becomes; leading to that sharp/sour taste in cheddars. When I first started working with cheese the term ‘sharp’ confused me. Thus I now tend to think of sharp cheeses being either quite salty, leave a pucker in your cheeks, sour/tangy, or make ones tongue tingle a touch. Every palate is different so… go on and test out a few cheddars like Isle of Mull (my favorite) from Scotland, Beecher’s aged Flagship from Seattle, Grafton Cheddar from Vermont, or any other that tickles your fancy that day.