From being produced initially in a sleepy old village in Somerset, England, Cheddar cheese which gets its name for the village Cheddar, is now made all across the world. This sharp tasting cheese is the most popular of mainstream cheeses known for its unique flavour which deepens over time The most common adjectives used to describe cheddar's strength are: mild, medium, strong, tasty, sharp, extra sharp, mature, old, or vintage.
This cheese is created though a process aptly called cheddaring, where after heating, the curd is kneaded with salt. It is then cut into cubes to drain the whey, post which they are then stacked and turned.
From the pale-yellows, to the off-white, the hard orange to the white, Cheddar varies in colour (through colouring agents like annato) but when it comes to texture, there's no mistaking the crumbly bits that melts comfortably in your mouth. The strongest of Cheddars are called vintage. They mature upto 15 months ensuring that the flavour is extra-strong and kicks-in a sharp punch.
Chopped cheddar cheese
Place the cheese slab on a chopping board and chop it into small pieces. Can be finely chopped or roughly chopped or chopped into big chunks as per the recipe requirement.
Grated cheddar cheese
This requires grating the cheese slabs in a hand held grater. This grated cheese is fine in texture and is used for making baked dishes like au gratin or casseroles. Grate into thin or thick shreds as required.
Low fat cheddar cheese
This cheese has a reduced fat content of 1-2%. It can be chopped, sliced, grated, shredded and cut into cubes as per the recipe requirements.
Sharp cheddar cheese
Sharp cheddar is simply an aged cheese, probably 6 to 9 months old. extra-sharp. Cheddar on the other hand is likely to be 1.5 to 2 years old. The sharper the Cheddar, the more tangy and complex it will taste. It can be chopped, sliced, grated, shredded and cut into cubes as per the recipe requirements.
Shredded cheddar cheese
Pass the cheese through a shredder and separate the thin slices into shreds with fingers. Alternatively, you may buy packaged shredded cheese.
Sliced cheddar cheese
You may place the cheese in a slicer or slice the cheese in thin or thick slices with a sharp knife, as per the recipe requirement.
How to select
• Cheddars vary in flavour depending on the length of aging and their origin.
• As cheddar slowly ages, it loses moisture and its texture becomes drier and more crumbly.
• Sharpness becomes noticeable at 12 months (old cheddar) and 18 months (extra old cheddar).
• The optimal aging period is 5-6 years; however, a 3 year old cheese is fine and a 5 year old cheddar can be saved for special occasions.
• Cheddar cheese should not be too crumbly or dry with the colour being relatively uniform.
• Check the expiry date and look out for any discoloration or mouldy spots.
• Opt for varieties that provide no more than five grams of fat per ounce.
• Cheese, especially Cheddar is a joy to have on its own as is.
• With crackers or in soup, sauces, dips and melted on snacks, like mashed potatoes, nachos, mac and cheese and even shepherd's pie are other great ways of relishing this cheese.
• Cheddar cheese balls and poppers are not very hip friendly, but insanely delicious nonetheless.
• Sandwiches, omelettes, pizza, soufflés, au gratins and fondues taste great with Cheddar.
• Fruits like apples, pears and melon compliment the sharp taste of Cheddar beautifully.
How to store
• All cheeses, regardless of variety, should be well wrapped and kept in the warmest section of the refrigerator. (The refrigerator door is often one of the warmest spots).
• As storage life is related to the moisture content of the cheese, the softer the cheese, the shorter amount of time it will keep fresh.
• In general, firm and semi-firm cheeses like Cheddar will keep for two weeks.
• Regardless of the type of milk used to create it, Cheddar cheese is a concentrated source of the nutrients naturally found in milk, including calcium.
• The one nutritional drawback of reduced-fat cheeses is that they are usually higher in sodium than full-fat natural cheeses.
• Cheddar also contains a large amount of other essential nutrients such as phosphorous, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and vitamin A.
• It is a dense source of high quality protein.