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If you’re like us, cheddar was your first love. Before we hardly knew washed rinds from bloomy ones, cheddar was there for us — the soul mate to our macaroni, the creamy goodness to our grilled cheese, the bite to our apple pie.
So let’s get to know it a little better. We turned to Whole Foods Market global cheese buyer Cathy Strange for the lowdown on all things cheddar — and turns out, there’s a lot we didn’t see coming. Do you know what to look for at the cheese shop? What should you be drinking with it? And most importantly: Where on earth does cheddar even come from?
This week, Cathy is answering all your burning cheese questions, as she takes us behind the scenes at Quicke’s, the dairy that produces some of her favorite cheddar. Below, five surprising things we learned along the way.
The real home of cheddar cheese. Not the United States. Between cheeseburgers and mac and cheese, you could be forgiven for thinking of cheddar as America’s national treasure. Just don’t tell that to an Englishman — cheddar actually originates from the British countryside, where dairies like Quicke’s are still upholding the country’s 800-year-old tradition.
What’s the deal with clothbound cheddar? Cheesecloth does more than just keep your cheese together, Cathy says. Its porous weave allows cheddar to breathe during the aging process and mature in a way only clothbound cheese can. That crumbly texture and nutty aroma you love? You’ve got cheesecloth to thank.
Your cheese knife can tell you more than you think. When you slice into cheddar, pay attention to the blade of your knife. You’re looking for smooth, even traces of butterfat, Cathy says — that’s how you know you’re in for a well-rounded flavor profile.
Squeeze your cheese. Yes, really. If you want to get serious about cheddar, don’t just taste it — squeeze it. Cathy recommends pressing a piece of cheese between your thumb and forefinger to warm it up and release the full aroma.
Cheddar’s best friend is an IPA. There’s something romantic about a hunk of cheese and champagne, but Cathy likes to balance sharp cheddar with a light, effervescent pale ale.
Get the full story by watching Panna’s Borough Market Cheddar video.
Are you a fan of cheddar? Let us know your favorite way to enjoy it.