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Large Format Cheddar

Written By Culinary Pen on Monday, August 9, 2010 | 3:17:00 PM

This is a cheese I made in late June - it's a five pound wheel of cloth-bound cheddar. I've really enjoyed my previous cloth-bound cheeses, but disliked fighting with the rind to give up every morsel of delicious cheese innards. So I've made a larger wheel (up from my standard 2 lb wheel) to ensure a better ratio of paste to rind.

Being a cheddar made with summer milk, this cheese has a lower fat content than winter milk. This should help the cheddar to age gracefully and not pick up any odd, gamey flavors. Not that odd and gamey are always bad when it comes to cheese, but I'm not a big fan of those cloth-bound cheeses that have an aroma of sulfurous egg whites.

As you can see in the photos, a good bit of natural mold is forming on the rind. As the cheese ages over the next eleven to twelve months, these molds will actually exhaust themselves and die off, leaving a rustic, burlap-like crust. One benefit of the double-cloth binding is that molds stick to the rind, but do not penetrate into the paste of the cheese. Some cheese makers suggest changing the bandages when the molds become too heavy, but I'm just going to see how this one rides out for the time being.

As a final aside, I've been surprised to learn that cheddars aged over two years are aged by being vacuum-sealed in huge plastic bags and aged under refrigeration. And that procedure is not even limited to industrial cheese makers. Many artisan cheese makers like Widmers and Shelburne age in plastic. A cloth-binding cheesemaker said most forty-pound cheddars reach their peak at 12 months in cloth; after that they begin to just dry out and become stale. Interesting, yes, but it takes some of the magic out of those four and six year cheddars.

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mfb said...

Interesting to hear about cloth vs. plastic.

Is there an effect of the size of a wheel (maybe through surface area to volume ratio?) of cheese on cheese taste or quality? For instance, are the same initial mixture produce different cheese if put in a 2 lb wheel vs. a 20 lb wheel?

Culinary Pen said...

I was once told that if you double the size of a cheese, it takes four times as long to age, but that might more of a rule of thumb than a scientific fact.

Also, a flat, disc shaped cheese has much more surface area than a drum, so they normally ripen much more quickly. This can be good if you want a cheese that will ripen quickly with a bold taste, but not so great if you're looking to make an aged grating cheese that still has a mild flavor.