Cheddar Cheese - Comparing Apples to Oranges
In a recent American cheese thread, we got side-tracked to Cheddar for a bit. It was stated there that Cabot, in Vermont, made good and great cheddar cheese, and one example was given as being such: the Seriously Sharp Hunter's Favorite in the scotch package. I am thoroughly broke these days and must invest every food dollar wisely - nevertheless, since I had some people coming over for dinner, I decided to try this cheese, along with another of the same price range, to see if it was indeed as good as people here said.
I bought, for comparison, a 1 lb. brick (also wrapped in plastic) of Adam's Reserve New York Extra Sharp Cheddar, which was from the Great Lakes Cheese of New York, located in Adams, NY. It was aged 12 months - which puts it in a different category from the unaged Cabot's Hunter's Favorite. But they were in a similar price range. The Cabot was $2.12 for an 8 oz package, or $4.24/lb. The Adam's Reserve was $4.99 but had a $1.00 off sticker on it, which made it $3.99/lb. To be fair, Cabot had several aged cheeses in the fine cheese area, including a 2-year aged cheddar. But these started at $6.99/lb. So if my criteria were to compare cheddars in the $4-5/lb area, these two were good samples.
I have to tell you that there was a consensus between my guests, my family, and myself. We are clearly not hunters, as it was not our favorite. The Adam's Reserve was heads and tails more flavorful (and yet not so sharp as to be off-putting to anyone). The Adam's Reserve held together well and yet, had a somewhat crumbly texture to it. The Cabot's was almost pure plastic - very much like eating a slice of poured and formed American cheese. I wondered if there were any emulsifiers in it, but the ingredients for both are the same - milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes. Cabot lists the milk as "Fresh Pasteurized", while the Adam's Reserve simply says milk. I'm sure it's pasteurized, nevertheless - just about all commercial cheese in the US is from pasteurized milk.
I agree that it's not fair to compare an aged cheese with a fresh one - aging develops all the flavors. And yet, if the price is about the same, why wouldn't people want a more flavorful cheese? I understand that some people drink light beer because they like it, but most do so to avoid calories and would gladly have a tastier product if it were as healthy. The fat calories on both these products are identical - there is no health difference, as far as I can tell.
As I said before, Cabot probably does make great Cheddar - once I have the money I will try their 2-year aged reserve. But the plastic 8 oz. brick in the dairy section ain't it - not even the "Seriously Sharp" one. Of course, as we say here over and over again, De gustibus non est disputandum. But, and pardon my pedantry, we can all learn about options - some better than others.
Now that you have had Adam's reserve, you must now hunt down Montgomery's Cheddar. It is made in England and is exported by Neal's Yard Dairy. In fact if you are a cheesaholic, try anything in Neal's Yard's catalog...... fantastic, especially the Lincolnshire Poacher.
Neal's Yard collects cheeses from around the British Isles and releases them at the height of their ripeness.
"It was aged 12 months - which puts it in a different category from the unaged Cabot's Hunter's Favorite. "
Not true - Cabot's Hunter's cheddar is indeed aged. According to their own Web site, the only real difference between their various grades of cheddar, from mild to the special reserves, is aging. I couldn't find a reference that specifies exactly how old the Hunter's Special is, but I'd guess it must be somewhere between six months and a year, since the next two grades they sell are specified as 18-month and two-year.
The fact that you prefer Adam's Reserve simply means it tastes better, it's not an aged vs unaged thing.
To be clear - it didn't *taste* like plastic, it had a plastic feel to it - slick and homogeneous. It tasted good, but just very, very mild in comparison to the other one. I am really going to try their 2 year old reserve soon. Obviously, I like aged cheddar as opposed to stuff that isn't aged quite so much - so I should enjoy theirs.
Morganna, so funny--after talking about Cabot on the other thread, guess what was on sale in our local supermarket for $2 a bag the same day? :) You guessed it--all the shredded varieties--5 for $10. We stocked up. And I just used some tonight in my cheesy cornbread.
applehome: if you actually do like the taste, but not the texture, you'd probably enjoy your Cabot in scrambled eggs or shredded over tacos or nachos. We use ours this way all the time.