As many of you know, I spent a few weeks this summer brushing up on my knowledge of a subject dear to my heart (well, my arteries actually!). That subject: CHEESE
I am certainly not an expert... not yet, at least. It's amazing how much there is to learn! I mean, you start with milk, salt and a culture and you end up with thousands of variations, flavours, textures ... it's truly amazing.
I thought it was important, however, to share a little of the knowledge I have gleaned. So to start with, I'll address some of the questions I've been receiving:
What is the real difference between mild, sharp and extra sharp cheddar?
Cheddar is like the head of the cheerleading squad. That is to say it's America's most popular cheese, although it was originally developed in the village of Cheddar, in the Somerset region of England.
Cheddar is made from adding a starter culture to heated milk, which produces lactic acid. Eventually, chemistry leads to the formation of curd, from which 'whey' is removed. The curds are then formed into a smooth mass and shaped into blocks.
The blocks are then aged. The amount of aging they receive determines the cheese's 'sharpness'. A mild cheddar is usually ripened for about six months. Up to a year generally brings about a sharp cheese and extra sharp comes after two or more years.
Incidentally, the yellow colour of cheddar is generally derived from 'annato', also known as 'achiote'. In its natural incarnation it is usually white or cream coloured.