Aged Cheddar Cheese

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I love cheese, and living in Switzerland it's quite easy to indulge myself. When I travel I make a point of trying the local cheeses, but when I'm at home I usually concentrate on the hundreds of Swiss and French varieties available, since they tend to be reasonably priced. Sometimes I venture into the gourmet basements of Jelmoli or Globus (two of the big departments stores in Zürich) to ponder the offerings from other places. One of the ingredient lists in the ongoing MasterChef Ingredient Test which I am playing along with called for aged Cheddar cheese. Cheddar is so widely available in plastic-packaged factory versions that it's easy to forget that artisanal cheddar exists. This particular wedge came from the Cheddar region itself, according to the Globus cheese counter lady.

As you can see, really aged Cheddar has some blue veins in it and has a cracked, slightly dry surface. It has a rather crumbly texture, and an intense, really "aged" flavor. It may be too strong for some people, and is only a distant cousin to the regular soft, slightly plasticky Cheddar you see in U.S. or U.K. supermarkets. (For better or worse, in Switzerland we only see the handmade type of cheddar. We have plastic Gruyere and other common Swiss cheese types though.)

This aged Cheddar is probably best as an eating cheese, maybe with a Port or similar fortified and/or heavy wine, though it can be used sparingly in cooking. I'd use it the way I might use a strong blue cheese or Stilton.

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