Fromagerie des Basques, Quebec
From along the lower St Lawrence comes this four-year-old cheddar. It never ceases to amaze me how much variety there is in the world of cheddars—the three in this month’s box, made from three different milks according to several different processes, are a small sampling of those available. There are reasons why it is the world’s most popular cheese—relative ease of creation and manifold ways to enjoy it being but two, one on each side of the cheesemaker/cheese-eater divide.
This particular cheddar has a tendency to crumble and a slightly sweet hint to its paste. My assistant described it as being almost Swiss-like; it does have a hint of that nutty-sweet-tang of the Alpine cheeses. Try it with a beer (I think it might go well with an IPA or American Pale Ale) or with the Rioja left over from the previous entry.
Seaside Sheep Cheddar
Oldfields Dairy, Oyster Bed, PEI
We’ve had a number of Oldfields Dairy’s offerings over the last year. This month I have a limited-edition sheep’s milk cheddar for you—limited edition because the shepherd is Gabriel Mercier of Isle St Jean Farm, and he is now using his sheep milk for his delectable yoghurt and Alexis Doiron cheese. Oldfields Dairy usually use their own goats’ milk for their cheeses (and soap!), so this is a special cheese indeed.
The Seaside Sheep Cheddar is a mild cheddar (aged under a year), with a clean taste with hints of lanolin. Try it with a local beer—I reckon Upstreet’s Rhuby Social would go nicely—or with a white wine or lighter red, such as a Rioja or a Sauvignon Blanc.
Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar
Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
The Mariposa Dairy in Lindsay, Ontario, makes a variety of goat and sheep milk cheeses. They make the Plain Goat that I have regularly, as well as Tania Sheep Cheese, which I will have at the stall later this month. All their cheeses are pasteurized and made using vegetarian-friendly rennet. I was in Toronto recently and acquired the Bandaged Goat Cheddar there, so it is a special treat—though I will do my best to find a regular supplier of it, as I am certain it will be a favourite of many.
The Bandaged Goat Cheddar is made in small batches to keep the quality high—that they succeed in doing so is shown in the large number of awards the cheese has won since it was first launched in 2011. (In 2011 it won Champion at the British Empire Cheese Festival, first in Goat Cheddar/tied for second as Best of Show at the American Cheese Society, and Grand Champion at the [Toronto] Royal Agricultural Winter Fair; it’s won First Place at various Canadian and international competitions in every year since except for 2012, which must have been a particularly intense year.)
After the cheese has been pressed into shape, the wheels are wrapped in cheesecloth and placed on a pine board in the aging room. They are turned each week for at least a year to ensure their even aging. This results in a nutty, earthy, and slightly crumbly cheese. (You might compare to Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar or Wookey Hold Cave-Aged Cheddar, which are made similarly.) Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar has lactic acid crystals in the paste—a much sought-after element in a well-aged cheddar.
Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar
Cheddar is one of the most popular cheeses in the world—and, as you know, has a wide range of textures and flavours. Unlike cheeses such as Stilton or Taleggio, it is not a protected name; cheddar refers to a method (by which curds are cut into blocks and stacked in inverted piles, which changes the acidity of the curds and thus the flavour) more than an origin, but even then, there are many cheeses that are called cheddars that do not use that process. Some are bound in cloth and waxed (sometimes with lard)—PEI’s own Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar follows that method; others are extruded mechanically into blocks and tend to have a creamier texture (and just to show the difference, Cows’ Extra-Old Cheddar, made by the same company and cheesemaker as Avonlea Clothbound, is one such). There is a British 1966 Codex of Trading Standards that states that cheddars must be under 39% moisture, and that’s it for official standards.
However, Cheddar does have an origin—the Cheddar Gorge and the town of Cheddar in Somerset, in fact—and people are still making traditional cheddars there. There is a ‘West Country’ PDO (“Protected Designation of Origin”), ensuring protection for cheddars made in the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall … but there are a number of artisanal cheddar producers who do not feel that the PDO has an appropriate standard, and have formed their own.
Wookey Hole is a well-known cave in Somerset, currently owned by a former ringmaster and circus owner, which was and has once more become a traditional aging and storage place for cheese some four hundred (and likely many more) years ago. The caves are the ideal temperature for maturing cheese (about 11 degrees C, with high humidity). The cheeses are made in Dorset by Ford Farm on the Ashley Chase estate (and do have the PDO), and matured in the caves for about a year. They are wrapped in cloth and brushed with lard to protect the wheels as they mature (the cloths are removed prior to transport).
The flavours are nutty and round with a slight edge characteristic of a medium-aged cheddar. Try it with a cider or an English ale. Cheddars are a great cooking cheese, of course, delicious with everything from pickled onions to apple pie.
Cheddar – Six Year Old (Ontario)
Cheddar is the world’s most popular cheese—but what a wide range of cheddars there are to choose from! From the mildest marble to the extremely strong nearly decade-old vintage, from white through coloured through flavours of all sorts, there is a cheddar for everyone.
Originating in the Cheddar Gorge in southern England, cheddars are not location-of-origin protected, and can therefore be made under that name around the world. Canada has a long history of excellence in cheddar-making, both in Ontario and in the Maritimes (Cows’ Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar recently won Canada’s Best Cheese award, and won the Vintage Cheddar category in the World Cheese Awards in the UK in 2015). In this month’s box, I’ve given you two very different cheddars—one Canadian, aged, and ‘plain’, the other British, young, and flavoured—to showcase a little of the wide range of this style of cheese.
Cheddars are marked by their large curd structure. In older cheeses the paste often breaks apart into curds, something that is very noticeable with this month’s Six Year Old. As befits an aged cheese, the flavour of the Six Year Old is lingering, complex, and rich—full of savour or umami. Delicious by itself, cheddar is also one of the great cooking cheeses, melting superbly and complementing everything from broccoli to apple pie. Carrying on the British influence, I would probably go for a beer, especially an ale, over a wine, but a strong red or a dry white would also complement the Six Year Old.