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How premium cheese makes the grade

How Premium Cheese Makes The Grade

When making our all-important food choices every week, it’s useful to know why some cheese, particularly cheddar, is sold at different price levels.

«Ingredients, texture, and taste vary significantly from cheddar to cheddar,» says Mike Sobol of The Balderson Cheese Company. «Just like you can find a chardonnay for $10 and another priced at $30, this type of quality is also reflected in the price of cheese.

«In fact, similar to fine wines, the art of making a classic cheddar requires the highly skilled eye and the discriminating palate of a master craftsman. The process of carefully aging and nurturing can take from two months to five years and more—and this cannot be simulated or rushed.»

Premium cheese, he says, starts with finest dairy ingredients, including whole milk, bacterial culture, salt for flavour, plus a coagulant called rennet to start the transformation of milk into cheese.

«And that’s it,» he emphasized. «The best of the cheddars strive for the best, but fewest possible ingredients, combined with the skill and craftsmanship of the cheese makers. Then patience is required. It takes lots of time to slowly draw out the best characteristics and flavour.»

Aging for flavour

Older cheddar is certainly sharper and richer in flavour, so how does this impact price?

«It really is quite special when all of the variables like ingredients, temperature, storing, and aging are so exacting that the blend will mature at an ultra slow pace, giving it taste and texture enhancements for years,» Sobol explained. «At The Balderson Cheese Company, for example, careful and extended aging coaxes out fabulous flavour complexities and we rely on the precision of our master cheese maker to determine the ideal maturity dates. A 5-year-old cheddar — with its distinctive creamy, crumbly, even crunchy texture — is much harder to produce than a younger cheese and that’s why there’s a difference in price.»

www.newscanada.com

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