Look at legendary English cheddars and they all have at least one thing in common: a cloth rind. In recent years, the technique has caught on among a creative handful of domestic cheesemakers, and we couldn't be more supportive.
Why make a particular point of highlighting these types of cheddars in particular? Binding a wheel in cloth makes for a cheese that's decidedly more rustic, with an almost dusty, pleasantly cellar-like aroma and more pronounced cooked milk flavors. And we like that.
Here, a list of some of the best to check out.
Binding a wheel in cloth allows a cheese to breathe. That interplay between surrounding air and inner paste makes for something unique-- especially since most of these cheeses age underground, in some kind of aging cellar, where that special cave air is thick and musty, with a particular capacity to impart a pleasant funk to all of those aging wheels.
And the cave-y concentration intensifies over time. Most cheddars of this style age anywhere from 6 months to over a year and a half-- and every minute counts as more opportunity for that dank, earthen air to reach the inner flesh of the cheese. And reach the inner flesh it surely does, thanks to that special, breathable cloth rind. Traditionally, the wheels are wrapped in cloth using lard, or some
With such intensity of flavor, expect these specimens to be particularly well suited to those beverages that we so frequently reach for in the winter: hardy reds, whisky, and darker beers.
With flavors ranging from sweet like caramel to vegetal and eggy, here are some of our favorites to seek out:
- Beecher's Flagship Reserve (Seattle, VT): $16.95/lb at Beecher's Cheese
- Bleumont Dairy Bandaged Cheddar (Blue Mounds, WI): $24.99/lb at Murray's Cheese
- Bravo Farms Silver Mountain Clothbound Cheddar (Traver, California): $19.99/lb from Bravo Farms Cheese Factory
- Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (aged at Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, VT): $19.99/lb at Whole Foods
- Grafton Village Clothbound Cheddar (Grafton, VT): $19.99/lb at Whole Foods
- Keen's Cheddar (Somerset, England): $29.99/lb at Di Bruno Brothers
- Mrs. Quicke's Cheddar (Devon, England): $19.99/lb at Murray's Cheese
- Montgomery's Cheddar (Somerset, England): $24.99/lb at Whole Foods
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Images: Nora Singley)