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Better cheddar?

Let's dish about everyday cheddars--what's great, what do you avoid? And, for fun, if you have a favorite eating cheddar (in a higher price range), bring that on, too.

FAVORITE EVERYDAY CHEDDARS:
- Cabot (Hunter's Seriously Sharp--the one with red flannel on the label)--we use Cabot more often than not
- McAdam Sharp

I AVOID THESE CHEDDARS:
- Kraft (we picked it up last week as a quick grab and it's suboptimal, to say the least)
- Sargento (lacks flavor of good cheddars mentioned above)

SPECIAL CHEDDAR BUYS:
- It's been too long. Tell me about your favorites!

The beauty of Cabot and McAdam is not only the taste, but the price. I stock up like mad when shredded Cabot is 2/$4 at our local supermarkets. And I've picked up blocks of McAdam for dirt cheap at PriceRite, a local discount market. Let the cheesy discussion begin!

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  1. I find that most national brands are quite bland. My first criteria is to look for the age on the label. I like bold, complex cheddar, so I usually go for one in the 7-10 year range. I look for small batch producers too. I will go for Tillamook if I need a middle of the road cheddar though. Depends on what I'm making.

    21 Replies
    1. re: Shane Greenwood

      I am not sure there is a cheddar that is in the 7-10 year range; even 5 year old cheddars are pretty rare.

      1. re: PBSF

        There is. Keep an eye out for them at quality cheese shops and farmers markets. You won't find cheese like that at the grocery store.

        1. re: Shane Greenwood

          I shop at quite a few cheese shops in the San Francisco area including Cow Girl, Cheese Board and have not come across cheddars aged that long. I'll definitely have to look more closely. Do you know a cheese shop/farmer's market in the SF Bay Area that would have some? Thanks.

          1. re: PBSF

            I'm pretty sure Cowgirl doesn't make any cheddars, so they wouldn't be the right place to look. Cheese Board might be a better bet. I haven't looked for them there, but you should ask them. The best ones I've had were coming out of the midwest, so you might want to order online. I used to see them at the farmers markets in Chicago. If you do a google search for "10-year cheddar", you'll find a lot of hits.

            1. re: Shane Greenwood

              Thank you very much for the info on "10-year cheddar" on google. We'll have to order some. Cowgirl in the SF Ferry Plaza Market carries many cheeses that they don't make, including cheddars from the Midwest and East, also from Neal Yard.

              1. re: PBSF

                Ah right, I see what you meant. Definitely check for some of those online, there are some mentions further down in this thread too. They are rare since many excellent cheddars are made without a lot of age (6-12 months). But definitely worth finding if you want to explore some new styles and flavors.

            2. re: PBSF

              I just bought an 8 year old Quebec cheddar at Say Cheese in Cole Valley. It's a white cheddar, soft and creamy texture with a mellow yet complex flavor, very good. They have a five year version as well.

              1. re: Shane Greenwood

                Thank you very much for the tip on aged cheddar at Say Cheese. I'll give them a try.

                1. re: PBSF

                  Just saw 5 1/2 year old yellow cheddar at Sigona's in Redwood City last night too. Tasted mellow with a slightly sharp finish. Not as complex as the Say Cheese Quebec Cheddar, but still quite good.

          2. re: PBSF

            I see the 7, 10 all the time at my local market. Sometimes there is even 15!

            I nominate Cracker Barrel for avoiding, even for everyday nibbling. Rubbery and tasteless!

            1. re: pinkprimp

              Avoid Cracker Barrel! Read the ingredients - it contains natamycin, an antibiotic.

              1. re: sandylc

                Natamycin is a harmless antifungal additive.

              2. re: pinkprimp

                I don't think I've ever bought Cracker Barrel, but this story just put it on my radar.

                http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/17/bus...

              3. re: PBSF

                I've eaten 10 year cheddar, maybe older. It's not for everyone! Can be VERY pungent. I do love a 5-7 year old cheddar a lot. The cheese shop at the Mall of America in Minneapolis sells aged cheddar...and a great Stilton too!

                1. re: PBSF

                  My supermarket in Montreal stocks a 12 yr old Cheddar regularly...

                  Its amazing with a glass of port

                    1. re: davekry

                      The Metro in La Cite ... they are in the pre packaged cheese section across from where the olives and salads are at the meat counter... In a black box I believe.

                      And and Im 90 percent sure they would have it at Vielle Europe ... might even be less expensive there.

                2. re: Shane Greenwood

                  Bah humbug. Please prove me wrong. Any cheese aged that long has to be drydrydry. I am happy to spend money for the right cheese, but this simply doesn't seem sensible when you can get a two-year-old from Bobolink that is divine and makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches on the planet.

                  I remember working for an Italian food distributor who learned that the competition was selling 5-year-old Reggiano Parm, and we were laughing hysterically. Great taste is good enough. Why spend an extra 5-7 years storing your inventory? That is expensive, and sensible consumers are not anxious to pay for the difference, especially if it will be an inferior cheese.

                  1. re: pitterpatter

                    There are two very different ways to age cheddar. Cheddars that are formed into wheels and mature on shelves in an aging room develop a natural rind. They generally cannot be aged much longer than two years without becoming too dry and crumbly. However, cheddars that are formed into large blocks and then sealed in Cryovac can age for years and still be moist enough to enjoy. Hook's in Wisconsin makes 12-year-old block cheddar and occasionally sells its 15-year cheddar (for $50 a lb. or more!). In fact, Shane Greenwood, the person to whom you replied, posted again later in this thread that he bought some of Hook's 15-year cheddar.

                    I tend to prefer naturally aged cheddars, especially British ones. They are more balanced in flavor than block cheddars. However, people who like their cheddar to be big, bold and mouth-puckering usually prefer the super-aged block cheddars, of which there are many good ones made in the US, Quebec and elsewhere.

                    1. re: pitterpatter

                      I take it you're not Canadian. I grew up on aged cheddar cheese and it is anything but dry. Just delicious. My father wouldn't buy anything aged fewer than 5 years.

                  2. For eating, Montgomery, Keen's and Quick's in that order. Unless I see any small producer ones in the cheese shop. Like most cheddars, these three are aged 18 -24 months, to provide a good sharp taste and dry texture.

                    For cooking, any decent supermarket stuff with a strength score of 5 or 6. I see little point in mild cheddar.

                    Whilst I think there's a place for cheddar, it wouldnt be my preferred hard cheese for eating or, indeed, for most cooking (except, perhaps, a cheese sauce)

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Harters

                      The English are sufficiently fanatical about their cheese that they actually have strength scores - that's a nice revelation. Over here in the US we're stuck with length of aging, such vague descriptions as Medium, Sharp and Extra Sharp, and word of mouth via forums of this kind. The only other way we have of finding a decent cheese is to patronize such cheese stores and supermarkets as put out samples. I've discovered some small creameries here on the west coast that make some beautiful cheddars, though nothing like the very old one that a friend brought from her home in Wisconsin, supplied by her retired cheese-maker father. It was incredibly stout and rich, with the kind of crunch effect you get in a good aged gruyere, but it was the last of that on the planet - he'd shut down his factory a decade before.

                      Again, if I had easy access to the kinds of non-cheddar hard cheeses still available in the UK, even after so many have apparently died out, I'd be as blasé about it as Harters is. But my choice is restricted by both availability and price - yes, I can get Wensleydale or Double Gloucester, but I can't dammit afford it, except for small bits for a party tray.

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        "Strength scores" for cheese goes on my "What I learned on Chowhound today" list. :) I'm with you, Will--it would be nice to have something like that here in the US.

                        The lost chord of cheese you described from Wisconsin sounded exquisite. Too bad it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

                        1. re: kattyeyes

                          Once in a lifetime for me, but for Patty the cheesemaker's daughter it was the end of an era - her family had lived over the factory! This cheese had actually been frozen, and she'd been given about five pounds of it, plus several packages of local sausage, because the freezer was being cleaned out. The fat content of the cheese was so high it had suffered not at all, or at least the flavor hadn't. It was like tasting a genuinely ancient port or madeira.

                        2. re: Will Owen

                          Will

                          I try not to be blase about good cheese in the UK. It's a precious product and one ofwhich many folk do not take advantage of. Most sold is block creamery cheese of no great distinction - although supermarkets are likely to sell at least one of the three cheddars I mentioned.

                          This isnt the thread for a recent history of our cheese, but you're right about the demise of many producers. Milk production was strictly controlled by the government in World War 2 and cheese was very much a rationed item (I think it was 2oz per person, per week). Small production was all but impossible and milk was sent to the major creameries where the government permitted the production of the main regional styles we see today (like Wensleydale or, in my region, Cheshire & Lancashire). It's only in comparitively recent years that the small producers have started to regain a decent market.

                          Just for interest, here's a link to my favourite Cheshire cheesemaker. Family produced since 1930, Mr & Mrs Bourne are a super couple who sell at my local farmers market. I see they will sell overseas so, depending on what imprt restrictions might apply where you are, it could be an opportunity. http://www.hsbourne.co.uk/

                          John

                        3. re: Harters

                          I haven't had Quick's but definitely agree on the Montgomery and Keen's line-up (have some Keen's in the fridge now). I generally don't like cheddar as an eating cheese and only use it sometimes in cooking (in which case, I found that the Kraft all natural sharp cheddar did a phenomenal job in my biscuits).

                          I don't have an everyday cheese (or, in this case, an everyday cheddar). I just eat less cheese and buy more expensive/artisan ones.

                        4. While I do enjoy a trip to a cheese market for some special aged cheeses, I must rely on my local chain grocery store for our 'everyday cheeses'. We go though way too much cheese and breadsticks to be spending lots of money on cheese.

                          I love a good New York extra-sharp cheddar. As for national brands, I actually really like Cracker Barrel 2% sharp white cheddar. I typically will stay away from any low fat cheese as they usually have some weird unidentifiable underlying taste, but this one is really good. Even my husband likes it.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: nmurawsk

                            I liked the Cracker Barrel sharp yellow cheddar for everyday use but it seems to be extinct, except for the marbled yellow and white. Trader Joes has plenty of choices but once I discovered their Double Gloucester with Caramelized Onion, I was home!

                          2. We're blessed by living near the Pine River Cheese & Butter Co-operative, a dairy farmers' co-op In Bruce County Ontario. Our everyday cheese is their "extra old" which has been aged for about 2 years or more. White or yellow - makes no difference. There is one twist though. There is a bin in the retail area with"trim ends" - the bits left over from packaging which are compressed so they have a very, very satisfying texture. It's crumbly andthe taste is quite sharp - I'm especially fond of the calicium nubbins that give it a crunch. It's a good snacking cheese and excellent on toast or English muffiin under the broiler, in rabbits or in cheese sauce.

                            Pine River premium cheeses are aged fo 3, 5, 7 or 9 years. We go for the 7 or 9 year ones. The sharpness has mellowed considerably but the taste is still strong and complex. The nearest taste I can compare it to is that of a dry white wine. The nubbins are usually gone and the texture has changed from crumbly to buttery. The price difference between these and the younger premiums are minimal. I have not seen the 9 year old anywhere but Pine River's shop.It's not available online either (see link below) and even the 7 year old can be hard to find.

                            Baldersons and Empire crop up on the Ontario board as well and I would dearly love to compare 3 cheeses from the same year class over 5 years.

                            http://www.pinerivercheese.com/

                            I don't know if it was/is available in the States but we used to favour "Mclarens Imperial Sharp" which came in a flat, round, red package. It was indeed, "sharp" and it was spreadable. Some tears ago it was bought out by Kraft. it may be just the "Kraft" association, but the product seemed to change a bit. Put it in front of me and I'll still happily eat it.

                            I haven't tasted an unpasteurised cheddar but can say that there is a sharp divide between product made from fresh whole milk and that from milk components. Having said that, I'll still scoff a piece of Kraft or Cherry hill.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: DockPotato

                              I am so jealous of your everyday use "extra old"--I love the little bits of crunch, it sounds so wonderful!

                              1. re: DockPotato

                                After too many old cheeseless (except when my parents sent it) years in the States, I have been happy to find good Canadian cheddar in NY markets in the past year or so. TJ's Canadian is decent, the Amish Markets in Manhattan sell one that was better when I first found it (is now more akin to a new cheese), and Sea/Nature Land in Park Slope sells a very good Quebec aged cheese. Nothing compares with the 5-7 year old my dad used to send me from the Bright, ON cheese factory, but a need is met. Re the Bay Area: we lived in Berkeley, CA for many years, and I never came across the kind of cheese I was looking for there. I was snottily infomed by a delightful woman at the Cheeseboard on Shattuck that I obviously knew nothing about cheddars since I disdained theirs. Right. My grandfathers both spoke lovingly about eating cheese so old it had what were referred to as skippers (if you don't know what they are, you probably don't really want to). We quite often had 15-20 year old cheeses on hand. Long line of cheddar eaters in my family.

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  You are right about not wanting to know about the skippers. I should have trusted you and avoided Wikipedia. Fascinating species but I am not going to think about eating them if I have not already done so. I am in the SF Bay area and have not seen cheddars over 36 months old. I will have to keep looking.

                                  1. re: Brog12

                                    Really aged cheddars are still pretty thin on the ground down here.
                                    Ha ha, made you look! Not very appealing.

                              2. My go-to is the Cabot Hunter; when it's 2 bucks for 8 ounces I load up. Cabot makes a nice, creamy horseradish cheddar that I obnoxiously scarfed down at their factory sampling room, but my local Florida markets don't stock it.
                                The 4 year and older black wax cheddars get pricey. Grafton is pretty good. The best I ever had was a no-name slice from a wheel simply labeled "5 year old Canadian cheddar". It was the Holy Grail and I have not found anything close since. "Rats" , whines this cheese mouse.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Veggo

                                  We load up at the same sale--how can you go wrong? Especially when its primary use (in this house, anyway) is cheesy eggs or strata?

                                  I want to say I bought Grafton in (of all places) a discount supermarket. I'll have to look when I go again. And I'm with you--some of the nicer cheddars we used to get were from Canada and in a league of their own. Mmmmmmmmmmm!

                                2. My favorite everyday cheddar is 1-year Dubliner Cheddar from Kerrygold. Special cheddar would be Vermont's 4- years Grafton Village, but thats a once or twice a year treat for me.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Infomaniac

                                    I've seen Kerrygold in the specialty cheese section of Stop & Shop. Is the 1-year old Dubliner something you can get in your local supermarket, or a specialty store. I've tried other Kerrygolds and liked them.

                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                      My local supermarket (MarketBasket) carries a 7oz. block for $2.99. It's has a nice tastes/texture and a little drier or less moisture that the Cabot.

                                    2. re: Infomaniac

                                      I like the 1-year Dubliner as well. I also have enjoyed the reduced fat Kerry Gold cheddar (can't remember if it's labeled Dubliner...). I wouldn't recommend it for and application that requires melting, but it's pretty good for a snack cheese eaten out of hand or with crackers.

                                      1. re: mpjmph

                                        Hey....thanks for this tip on the reduced fat Kerry Gold cheddar as a melting cheese. I'm finding a lot of uses for it.

                                    3. Rogue Creamery, besides it's signature blue cheese, also makes cheddar in some interesting variations.
                                      http://www.roguecreamery.com/
                                      They don't seem to promote them online though.

                                      19 Replies
                                      1. re: bbqboy

                                        Apparently, "happy cows" come from Oregon, too ("Don't vote for Alicia!"). I love those happy cow commercials. So clever. ;)
                                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_457Fw...

                                        Will keep my eye out for Rogue--I've heard good things about them before. Thanks!

                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                          For "commercial" brands, my favorite supermarket cheddar is Boar's Head, 3 year aged Canadian Cheddar...

                                          1. re: Sean

                                            Also, a local market chain near me (RI) sells an English cheddar that is very good, interesting flavor difference than most cheddars I have had from supermarkets. The brand name is Coastal

                                            http://www.fordfarm.com/default.aspx?...

                                            1. re: Sean

                                              Sean - that Coastal cheese is what Whole Foods sells as Seaside (mentioned in my post below). It's seriously wonderful!

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                Linda

                                                The crystallisation thing is mentioned on Coastal's website so I guess it's the same beast. I think the company must export much of its product to America - as I see few UK references to it, but a lot of US ones, on Google.

                                                J

                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  Harters, there was another thread you and I were talking about Seaside/Coastal, and while I can't find it now, I think I linked something that showed it was the same maker. Don't know how close Dorset is to you, but perhaps a call to see if they sell in your area is in order. This is definitely a cheese to put on a cheeseboard for guests. Or hoard for yourself. ;-)

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    Dorset is middle of nowhere for everyone except people who live in Dorset!

                                                    It's at the other end of England for me but email knows no county boundaries. One wings its way to them asking if they have a local supplier.

                                                    Actually for guests, I only ever serve north western cheese. And only ever a single cheese on my cheeseboard - I find it makes matching the accompaniments much easier.

                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                      Interesting - only one cheese served on a cheeseboard? I usually go with 3 - a blue (although I tend to prefer "light" blue cheeses), and often a goat cheese and one other - sometimes cheddar, sometimes a Manchego-like cheese. Accompaniments are several crackers/mini-toasts and dried apricots and a bunch of grapes.

                                                      I hope that the Seaside Cheddar makers get back to you with a local supplier!

                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                        I got the idea of the single serving from an article by Nigel Slater, our top food writer IMO.

                                                        Nothing to beat a very large piece of mature Lancashire on, say, the Christmas lunch table, surrounded by little slices of fruit cake. It's a northern thing - the fruit cake.

                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                          That's a family favorite for us as well - introduced to my family by a neighbor from Yorkshire. My dad was English but from Sussex. What an excellent combination of flavors.

                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                            My family name (Hartley) originates from around the Lancashire/Yorkshire border and is still very much a regional name. My father would have jam with his cheese but that's not something I've fancied trying.

                                                            Just to run with the single cheese idea for a moment - I'll do Cheshire cheese with a local apple and celery but a Spanish cheese, say a Mahon, cries out for grapes. If I serve separately, I can get perfect pairings. If served together, you can get a mishmash of flavours that doesnt appeal to me. And a perfectly ripe runny Brie needs nothing more than bread.

                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                              I love jam with cheese. It's my favorite way to eat cherry preserves.

                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                The single cheese is a good idea. Will give it a go. Nigel Slater is my favorite of the current crop of UK food writers as well. He has an extremely engaging style and everything I've tried of his has been super.

                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                  Slater's currently working on a new TV programme - it''ll only be his second series (assuming it is actually a food one). The other was a few years back and I'd have to say he's a far better writer than "on screen presence".

                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                    I would expect his persona to be low-key. One hopes he won't fall victim to the type of handlers who transformed a charmingly diffident and quiet US chef (Rick Bayless, Mexican food expert extraordinaire) into a forcedly boisterous unwatchable caricature. Or perhaps such creatures do not exist in the UK.

                                                                2. re: Harters

                                                                  another Hartley descendant here

                                                          2. re: Harters

                                                            For the benefit of any readers in Britain, I've had a reply from the Coastal people. I asked a specific question about suppliers in my county and neighbouring areas and got a vague response saying it was available from "multiple retailers". No, it isnt - at least none known to me for selling good cheese.

                                                            They do mention that their major UK outlet is Costco. I believe this is an American company which has a few outlets in the UK which probably supports my guess that most of the company's production goes for export to north America.

                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                              Interesting that they were so vague - it does seem as if the majority is being exported to the U.S. I guess if you're ever in a Costco in the U.K., you can always see if they have it there.

                                              2. re: bbqboy

                                                I finally had a chance to try Rogue River blue cheese in one of those small, leftover "try this" pieces at Whole Foods. It was just the right size because it's not inexpensive, but what a delicious splurge!
                                                http://www.roguecreamery.com/store/pr...

                                                I want to try this one, too!
                                                http://www.roguecreamery.com/store/pr...

                                              3. The Jewel ad shows Tillamook on sale, 8 oz for 2.49 through Wednesday.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: fern

                                                  Tillamook from Costco--usually the extra sharp loaf (I think it's 2 pounds) for about $8

                                                  1. re: coney with everything

                                                    I just got this cheese (comes in black wax!). It is the best cheddar I've found without paying dearly!

                                                2. FAVORITE EVERYDAY CHEDDAR - like you, Cabot's Hunter's Seriously Sharp. ETA: Grafton is another good everyday.

                                                  AVOID: Cracker Barrel (will buy only if that's all they have) and anything that's been preshredded and in a bag - Kraft, Sargento, any of them.

                                                  SPECIAL CHEDDAR BUY - only found at Whole Foods in my area - Seaside Cheddar from England - a nice sharp cheddar with some crystallization that "pop" in your mouth when it's at room temperature.

                                                  1. 2nd Cabot, well aged, great taste, affordable. I've tried some Dubliner cheddar, not as sharp but good flavor.

                                                    1. In days of old, some cheddars were nicely crumbly, and a piece one might mount on a triscuit vaguely resembled a jagged-edged tetrahedron. Now, every carved piece is flat linear surfaces like little bricks. What happened to the old rule that nature abhors a straight line? Anybody know why, or know of any nice crumblies?

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                        Aging contributes to the crumble. The older cheddars crumble nicely. No straight lines!

                                                        I like the New Zealand Grassfed White Cheddar from Trader Joe's if you like a nice sharp flavor. Reasonably priced too.

                                                        1. re: scuzzo

                                                          I was looking to see if anyone was gonna mention that NZ white. It is quite memorably good, and cheap enough to use in mac'n'cheese and grilled sandwiches, where it shineth like unto the sun. And of course omelets too.

                                                          And it just occurred to me I'm out of it, which I shall have to remedy.

                                                      2. Kraft's Coon Cheddar is supposed to be quite good, actually (if they still make it- it's been many years since I've eaten it). Like many domestic cheddars, one should avoid the extra-sharps because of bitterness, and the mediums and milds because of blandness, and stick to the sharps, which are really medium. I was particularly impressed with Joseph Farms sharp, from a price standpoint, as far as depth of flavor. It should be noted that I keep kosher, and that therefore I have not had a decent cheddar in years, but Joseph Farms was kosher for a time, and it was the best available. Some sharp Cabot is now available under decent kosher supervision, but is too expensive. In my younger days, when I did not keep kosher, cheese was my passion (we're talking '70s and early '80s), and Kraft Coon, which was widely available, was my "go to" Cheddar. In those days, one went to a specialy chees shop for the better stuff- it wasn't available down the street. Now, with Cabot available in every supermarket, as well as "specialty cheese" sections, it's a golden age for consumers.

                                                        1. Has anyone else come across the Cabot Cloth Bound Cheddar, caved-aged at Jasper Hill Farms for a year, I think? We're definitely fans. Actually, just thinking about it, I can kinda taste it.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: optimal forager

                                                            http://www.cabotcheese.coop/pages/our... (at the bottom of the link

                                                            )

                                                            I haven't see it, but it sounds good - I have tried their Private Stock, and find I prefer Hunter's Seriously Sharp better. I *would* like to try their Old School Cheddar aged 5 years as well!

                                                            1. http://www.cheesesociety.org/associat...

                                                              American Cheese Society's 2009 winners (too many to list)

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Reignking

                                                                My everyday cheddar is Australian cheddar from Zabar's (don't know the brand) its pretty tasty especially if not straight out of the fridge and the price can't be beat <$3 lb.

                                                              2. Our current favorite is an Aged English Cheddar with Carmelized Onions available at Trader Joe's. Like candy....

                                                                1. This a great topic that deserves bumping.
                                                                  The term 'everyday cheddar' really needs to be split into two:
                                                                  - nibbling cheddar, to be sampled by itself with perhaps fruit, wine, crusty bread, etc
                                                                  - MELTING cheddar, mainly for sandwiches

                                                                  A truly sharp cheddar in the latter subcat seems to be an endangered species, much to my sandwich eating dismay. Economics (and possibly lower gov't standards) encourage the bulk producers to age less and produce a product that hardly deserves to be called 'cheddar'. Also, it is a very fine line of aging between melting capable and spontaneously breaking into grease (characteristic of well aged great artisinal nibbling cheese).

                                                                  Here in SoCal I've only found that Tillamook sharp and (very surprisingly) Fresh and Easy 'extra' sharp meet the requirement for superior melting cheddar. There may be others but they might be out of my usual everyday price range or convenience.

                                                                  BTW if I was Emperor of the US (or just the FDA and USDA) I'd change the naming regulations for *current* bulk cheddar:
                                                                  Mild - Outlawed under penalty of death.
                                                                  Medium - relabel to 'mild' or outlaw - mild cheddar is an oxymoron to me
                                                                  Sharp - relabel to 'medium' and 'for wimps only'
                                                                  Extra sharp - if it melts, it is probably just 'sharp' to my taste
                                                                  Other - reduce annatto content to a hue midway between jack and that abomination 'American'

                                                                  End of rant :-).

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: DiveFan

                                                                    We too like the Tillamook for melting -- it makes a great grilled cheese sandwich. We can get it here in nyc.

                                                                    1. re: LNG212

                                                                      A delightful surprise when Mrs. O #1 and I were travelling down the West Coast, having left Alaska for California. We were going through Oregon and stopped at a roadside café, nothing fancy, kind of rustic … and I ordered a beer and a cheeseburger. The cheese was Tillamook sharp! I had never before been served a cheeseburger with REAL cheese on it, and that was about as "real" a slice of cheese as I'd ever tasted. 45 years ago, and I can still taste it.

                                                                  2. I avoid any mild or light cheddars, waxy and bland. I actually don't mind cracker barrel medium, and I typically keep either shredded bags in the fridge with blends or straight, for salads and melting etc.

                                                                    Favorites outside that include Applewood smoked cheddar, and any variations of the aged Balderson cheeses. Whiskey Glenphilly, when I can find it.

                                                                    Any cheese is an every day cheese for me !

                                                                    1. Old Quebec. I always taste before buying and inevitable end up buying this very sharp white. It makes a good mac and cheese too.

                                                                      1. I lived in Oregon for 10 years and one of our favorite outings for visitors was a trip to Cannon Beach with a stop at the Tillamook factory. I use their cheddar as my everyday cheddar for its taste and the effort they make to use non-BST milk.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: trvler

                                                                          I buy Tillamook for loyalty reasons. I have family and friends connections with the Tillamook enterprise.

                                                                          1. re: Sharuf

                                                                            Fav everyday cheddar is the Tillamook Vintage White aged over 2 years. Works great in food and on a cheese platter, at least for my taste.

                                                                            Have to say I didn't realize you could get 5 and 10 year cheddars. Will have to check them out. I'm guessing they are pricey. I can usually get a 2 lb block of the tillamoof for about $12.

                                                                            jb

                                                                            1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                              For fantastic grilled cheese, layered with prosuito:

                                                                               
                                                                              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                                When I can find the Vintage, it is a happy day.

                                                                                 
                                                                          2. Just got some Hook's 15 Year Old Cheddar. One of the best cheeses I've ever had. I heard him interviewed on NPR about the cheese. It's in very limited supply. Creamy texture with a a rich bite. Tangy flavor and a long finish. I've never tasted a cheddar this big before. Went really well with an acidic sauvignon blanc to cut the richness. Get this cheese if you can.

                                                                            http://www.hookscheese.com/purchase.html

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Shane Greenwood

                                                                              Sold out until March 2010...too bad, I love really really old cheddar.

                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                Not too long to wait. A friend just picked up some for me last week, so it's still out there I guess if you are in the right places. She found it in Wisconsin.

                                                                            2. The Trader Joe's Canadian cheddar is actually a pretty good product - nice and sharp, good texture. It's my everyday cheese now. (It took forever before any Canadian cheddar was available down here.)

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                Fairway has carried Canadian cheddar forever.

                                                                                Recently had Ford Farm cheddar. Excellent with that crystalline quality (like a nice parm-reg).

                                                                                1. re: LNG212

                                                                                  Funny, I've never seen it there (and have looked). Good to know. I know what you mean about the crystalline quality, it is very nice.

                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                    At the 74th St. location, the Canadian cheddar is usually right next to the New York State cheddar. They are all blocks so it can be easily overlooked. The Ford Farm cheddar is at the counter (again, at Fairway 74th St). Highly recommended.

                                                                                    1. re: LNG212

                                                                                      Twist my arm... Husband works near there, will ask him to be on the lookout.

                                                                              2. Favorite everyday cheddar, which are indeed special:
                                                                                Cabot Clothbound- always have in my house, expensive
                                                                                Grafton Clothbound- always have in my house, slightly less expensive
                                                                                Quicke's - often have, harder to find.

                                                                                More "everyday" priced, if you can find- the 4 year Old Quebec Cheddar.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: cheesemonger

                                                                                  Tillamook came out with a 100th anniversary 3-year cheddar (in a 2-lb black-wax round) that we liked a lot -- not as sharp as say, the 4-year Black Diamond, but with better flavor. It also had that sort of crumbliness/flakiness mentioned upthread -- you'd start to cut it and it would shear off like a rock or something. Unfortunately, Sam's Club only had it for a brief time. You can get it through Amazon at "Made in Oregon" or directly from the factory, but shipping is quite expensive. They used to sell a 5-year at the factory, but you can't get that any more.

                                                                                  The Cabot 3-year they used to have at N. CA Costcos was also outstanding (and quite reasonable -- something like $12 for 2 lbs), but I haven't seen it recently.

                                                                                  I haven't been able to bring myself to try the 10-year Hooks at WF, as it's $40 per lb. I'm afraid I might really like it!

                                                                                  1. re: Steve Green

                                                                                    Following up on my own post here -- I finally tried the 10-year Hooks at Whole Foods. It was very good; slightly better than those I mentioned above, but in no way worth $40 per pound to me, especially since Costco (in Northern CA) once again has the 3-year Cabot in 2-pound blocks for $5.25 per pound. It's roughly equal in flavor to the 4-year Black Diamond, but at less than half the price.

                                                                                2. Had an Irish cheddar recently that was better than the English varieties I've sampled. Cabot Seriously Sharp Hunter's Favorite is about the best I can find in local groceries, but when I was in Vermont, Cheddar 3-year extra Sharp in the black brick and their 24 month Cheddar Extra Sharp were slightly better. Other possibles are Grafton Village Classic Reserve Extra Aged (2yr) Cheddar is also available in our local butcher shop, and 5Spoke Redmond Cheddar (white).

                                                                                  1. Balderson's aged cheddar, five or six year old!

                                                                                    I currently live in Asia, so I go for anything that's labelled aged or sharp.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                      As a Canuck, I am partial to Balderson also, the five or six year old, though it took me a while to get used to eating white cheddar, which seems to be less prevalent in BC than in Ontario (margarine there is also white which really puts me off). I can't think of a really outstanding BC cheddar, though we do have some damn fine artisanal cheesemakers.

                                                                                      I don't think I've ever tried a cheddar from Quebec as mentioned above, despite a stint in high school at our local gourmet cheesemongers. Will have to keep an eye out...

                                                                                      I really love the wee crystals in old cheddar, think they have something to do with the calcium content?

                                                                                    2. Cabot Seriously Sharp is wimpy. I like a SHARP cheddar, one that bites me back.

                                                                                      I last had such a SHARP cheddar from a loooong deceased relative in Ticonderoga who marketed a cheddar coated in black, that was heavenly.

                                                                                      I have not found its peer since, sadly.

                                                                                      $40. a pound for a good cheddar? They'd have to give me a sample first, that is highway robbery if it ain't astonishingly good.

                                                                                      1. Special Cheddar Buys: goat cheddar from Beecher's Cheese at Pike Place Market. That cheese is one of the main reasons I want to go back to Seattle...

                                                                                        1. I'm lucky enough to work in the original Cheddar village (Somerset)- yes, where it all stemmed from in the first place! There is one producer still making cheese here and you can see whole round cheeses happily maturing in the caves in the traditional way. So you can imagine this is the one I go for, the 'tastier' (sharper) the better. Just for info, Cheddar is also famous for its impressive gorge which apparently inspired Tolkien's writings, and one of the oldest known human skeletons was discovered in the same cave system where the aforementioned cheeses sit! So plenty for tourists here.....

                                                                                          1. Here in Oregon, our go-to cheddar for day-to-day use is Tillamook Extra-Sharp White.

                                                                                            My folks just went back East and Mom brought me a pound of Cabot Private Reserve Classic Cheddar. We haven't opened it yet, since we have 4 or 5 open cheeses at the moment, but I can't wait to try it!

                                                                                            1. Beecher's Flagship is really excellent. It's from Seattle, but you can order it online. They also make cheddar with high quality add-ins. Order their "No Woman" cheese with Jamaican spices and you WILL cry. My daughter and I went through a pound of that so quickly no one else got to try it.

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                I second Beecher's. I moved away from Seattle about a year ago and haven't been able to find it in my town. Cougar Gold made at WSU in Washington is also very good, but it only comes in one size and it's way more cheese than I usually need. Today I picked up some Kerrygold Aged Cheddar at Winco and it's delicious, it also slices better than any cheese I've ever purchased. It didn't stick to the knife as most cheeses do. Not sure why - extra fat maybe? I will definitely buy it again though, it was only $3.98 for 7oz at Winco.

                                                                                                1. re: gmm

                                                                                                  Yes, Cougar Gold is definitely good for larger groups. Dad has it sent to family and friends every year for Christmas.

                                                                                                2. re: Isolda

                                                                                                  Beecher's Flagship is available at my local California Costco at a small discount(50%) compared to the Seattle Pike Place Market flagship store. They also have Cabot Black Wax.

                                                                                                3. Well, I was going to suggest Cabot Seriously Sharp, but see that you already use it! I don't think that it can be improved upon for supermarket cheese.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: steakman55

                                                                                                    It's my go-to also, or the Hunter, always a few packages in the fridge. When it's 2 bucks a throw I load up. My only wish is that it were more crumbly, as it is more like putty, but for the price I quit complaining. Oh, just one more complaint: their horseradish cheddar I sampled at their company store in VT is killer, but none of my grocers in TX or FL carry it.

                                                                                                  2. I am a man with a habit of Cabot's.

                                                                                                    That be the choice of my cheese.

                                                                                                    Delightful in sharpness
                                                                                                    each slice rich with its ripeness
                                                                                                    Gives ponder upon tongue and on mind

                                                                                                    Of so simple a verb and a phrase
                                                                                                    here expressed as infinitive:
                                                                                                    "To Cheddar."

                                                                                                    I could go on, about arms and of elbows
                                                                                                    engaged in the curds and casein.

                                                                                                    But simple directive
                                                                                                    is just give a ponder reflection
                                                                                                    on all action and ramification
                                                                                                    of verb of "To Cheddar."

                                                                                                    With such meditation
                                                                                                    while ensliced upon cheese
                                                                                                    will garner good evenings.

                                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                        So what is the sound,
                                                                                                        of one hand a clapping
                                                                                                        while lovingly covered in curds?

                                                                                                        Perhaps be it nascence
                                                                                                        on mind of the maker
                                                                                                        of bringing of cheese?

                                                                                                        One clap to the curds
                                                                                                        that are coating his elbows.

                                                                                                        One clap to his stack
                                                                                                        of firm loaves to their cheddar

                                                                                                        One clap to his watch
                                                                                                        of their time of their aging,
                                                                                                        of becoming good cheeses....

                                                                                                        Yes, clap clap clap for that.

                                                                                                        1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                                                          Applause. Applause.

                                                                                                          I'll tack on my choices to your ode:
                                                                                                          The Vermont Country Store in Weston VT sells their extra sharp cheddar which is aged only 2 years but seriously delicious. Also in VT the Grafton Cheese Company sells a very nice 2 y/o, a 7 y/o Quebec Vintage Cheddar and a 10 y/o Widmers 10 Year Reserve. All equally wonderful. Forget the Crowley VT cheddar... too mild.

                                                                                                          As an everyday cheddar we usually get Cabot Hunter's Seriously Sharp at our local supermarket.

                                                                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                                                                            Addition to ode
                                                                                                            only enhances
                                                                                                            the pull
                                                                                                            of the pile
                                                                                                            of good cheddars.

                                                                                                            There is pause
                                                                                                            There is richness
                                                                                                            in praise of them cheddars.

                                                                                                            In choices we make on our cheeses.

                                                                                                            We be of mind, quite clear and robust.

                                                                                                            Yet become we the Geezers
                                                                                                            in our think upon cheeses
                                                                                                            of ages bescrolled on their aging.

                                                                                                            I too, as said with the Frost,
                                                                                                            was supple young swinger of birches.

                                                                                                            But now, of my body
                                                                                                            I implore that my cheddars
                                                                                                            speak well of their ages

                                                                                                            And give me good waft
                                                                                                            of fragrance to to nose

                                                                                                            As I am an old one
                                                                                                            Some what of a Geezer.

                                                                                                            But yet I have nostrils
                                                                                                            to parlay upon cheeses
                                                                                                            to give sniff of their aging
                                                                                                            to encline with their cheesuning.

                                                                                                            Verb still stands:
                                                                                                            To Cheddar.

                                                                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                                                                              7-y-o is my favorite age. A very nice friend in Canada arranges to send me some really nice Balderson's 6-y-o that they sell in Costco there. First time since my dad died that I have proper old cheese in the house. Ahhhhh...

                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                At our local Trader Joe's yesterday we bought the Quebec 2 y/o and the New Zealand Scuzzo mentions upthread. There's a Kerrygold Dubliner in the fridge which we haven't tried yet.

                                                                                                                Had the Quebec with crackers and martinis last night and liked it quite well. Softer than I expected but with a pleasant mouth feel and tangy finish. I think we should have let the cheese sit at room temp for a bit then served. Does anyone do that?

                                                                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                  <<Does anyone do that?>> Yes, unless I'm not patient enough to wait. It tastes better that way!

                                                                                                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                                                    Pleasures of wait
                                                                                                                    to more proper the temperature
                                                                                                                    have bounties expanded
                                                                                                                    so far beyond cheese.

                                                                                                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                                                                      I think you just redefined "food porn"...

                                                                                                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                                                        Stallions at gate.
                                                                                                                        those rugged racehorses.
                                                                                                                        Wait for the bell to bring their best gait.

                                                                                                                        So such it be
                                                                                                                        with geezers
                                                                                                                        and cheesers

                                                                                                                        Having still muscle
                                                                                                                        and twirl of the snort
                                                                                                                        while wait at the gate.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Gio

                                                                                                                    Gio, I think you'll like the Dubliner. And yes, let it sit out for about 20-30 minutes, and the flavors seems to intensify.

                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                      The Dubliner is very nice! We can get it at Sam's Club here. One thing I have noticed on cheap (and sometimes not so cheap) cheddars is the inclusion of the antibiotic drug natamycin, supposedly to retard mold growth. Don't buy anything that has this in it!

                                                                                                        2. The giant block of Extra-Sharp Tillamook is pretty awesome, I have to say. I find most cheddars to be bland and... well, just yuck. The extra sharp is tangy, savory, and full of flavor!

                                                                                                          1. There was mention, upthread, of Kraft.
                                                                                                            Though his products be mainstream and plebeian,
                                                                                                            he was the man most responsible
                                                                                                            to gettin' us folks to doin' some cheesin'.

                                                                                                            I have image of my Momma
                                                                                                            standing alone in the quiet of kitchen
                                                                                                            struggling with foil wrapper on rectangle
                                                                                                            of Kraft Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar.

                                                                                                            A diminutive lady full of power and vigor,
                                                                                                            she did not see me as I stood there and watched her
                                                                                                            succeed in her struggle with tight wrap of the foil
                                                                                                            then proceed, with a knife, to the prize of the cheese.

                                                                                                            As far as I know, Kraft Extra Sharp
                                                                                                            was the furthest Mom journeyed
                                                                                                            into the tasting of cheeses.

                                                                                                            Barely tangible, that memory,
                                                                                                            of her and of kitchen and foil and cheese,
                                                                                                            but it stands with good power
                                                                                                            as picture of Momma.

                                                                                                            What would she say today,
                                                                                                            if she knew that her son
                                                                                                            had fully become
                                                                                                            a be-crumbler of Stiltons.

                                                                                                            1. It is better to cheddar
                                                                                                              than to sit in soft leather.

                                                                                                              It is better enroll arms elbows and shoulders
                                                                                                              to the making and stacking of cheese.

                                                                                                              Such endeavors to curds
                                                                                                              and to fats and to caseins
                                                                                                              deliver the miracle
                                                                                                              of stacked cheddared cheese.

                                                                                                              As with us, and with cheese,
                                                                                                              there is gift in the aging.
                                                                                                              and lessons from cheddar
                                                                                                              if only we listen.

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                                                                I am pleased
                                                                                                                with the ease
                                                                                                                with which you cheese.

                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                  With a gaze to the stack
                                                                                                                  of those aging of cheddars
                                                                                                                  celebration of fact
                                                                                                                  of being both geezer
                                                                                                                  and cheeser.

                                                                                                              2. Cato Corner Farm makes some amazing cheese!! Their Jeremy River Cheddar is my go-to cheese. It's not aged long at all, but it has the nuttiness of an aged cheese. I'm lucky that I live 10 min. from them, so i'm never out :)

                                                                                                                1. It is always be better
                                                                                                                  to be-stroke of the cheddar
                                                                                                                  feeling of firmness
                                                                                                                  becomes as it ages.

                                                                                                                  Simple of praise
                                                                                                                  reply of my palate
                                                                                                                  of days and of cheeses.

                                                                                                                  1. I always have a block of Cabot Seriously Sharp in the fridge. I'm so addicted to it (along with Triscuits, shame, shame) that I am convinced there is some type of drug in there. Equally delicious is Grafton sharp cheddar (also tangy and salty, the hallmarks of a good cheddar to me).

                                                                                                                    Almost forgot: Beecher's Flagship, really great cheddar from Seattle. You can order it online.

                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                      I love Triscuits. They "break" correctly when you bite into them with the grooves in the crackers. :-)

                                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                        We never buy them because we love them not wisely but too well. Only indulge at my MIL's.

                                                                                                                      2. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                        Isolda check your local Costco. Mine, Richmond Ca. sometimes has Flagship at 1/2 the price of the Pike Place Market mother ship.

                                                                                                                      3. I love a NY sharp cheddar right off the wheel, don't like it crumbly but with a good assertive flavor, and was despairing in the south (Texas, North Carolina) of finding a decent sharp cheddar other than Cabot Hunters, which is too "Vermont" for my taste. Then I discovered that below the Mason-Dixon line you need to look for cheese that comes in large wedges with a red wax, usually found with local sourced sausages rather than the cheeses. They call it by different names like "wedge cheese" or "wheel cheese" or "store cheese" or such. Very often I find it without any name at all. These are the only cheddars I can find with any taste at all down here. Apparently there's a feeling that you are going to serve it with a nice venison sausage!

                                                                                                                        1. You lucky Canadians should get your mitts on some of the President's Choice 8-yr-old. Just wonderful.

                                                                                                                          1. I found a new cheddar today...DON'T LAUGH, 'cause I'm NOT KIDDING:
                                                                                                                            TICKLER.
                                                                                                                            Yeah, we had a good chuckle over it at the little deli down the way from me today. But this cheese is no laughing matter. Find it. Try it. Mind you, the purple-gloved hand animation at the bottom of their website does tickle my funny bone. :)
                                                                                                                            http://www.ticklercheddar.co.uk/

                                                                                                                            Made a helluva steamed cheeseburger a Casa Katty tonight.

                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                                                              The steamed Tickler cheeseburger!