Sunday, April 06, 2008

Eat Old Cheese

Hook's 10 Year Old Cheddar

Sometimes I'm in bliss eating a local cheese that's less than a week old, find some Fantome Farm goat cheese at the Dane County Market. Other times, like today, I get my cheese bliss from the aged. And I mean old, Hook's ten (plus) year old cheddar, which I had for lunch today.

You can read about the Hook's and their aging process here. The Hooks say.
Some people say they don't like aged cheese," Julie says. "They think it's bitter. But chances are they haven't had an aged cheese that's done well.
Well, maybe it's not bitter, but 10 year cheddar is not starter cheese. It does not taste like cheese you may know. For one thing, it is crunchy. Do you expect your cheese to crunch. Hook's 10 year cheddar is not the only cheese to crunch. Most often from calcium lactate, the crunch, or crystals, can be found in other aged cheeses, including English cheddars and older Parmesans. The tiny crystals in Hook's aged cheeses add an unexpected pleasure. The other thing though, that's maybe not as unexpected. That is the funks of aged cheese. OK, it's not bitter, but it aint smooth. Maybe a bit sour, whiffs of ammonia, the taste of aged cheddar is not one of decay or stink like a mold ripened cheese, but it is far from nuanced. It helps to balance a cheese like this against something, some keeper apples, the maligned red delicious add the necessary off-setting sweetness as I had with my local ploughman's lunch.

The Hook's are usually at the Dane County Farmer's Market in Madison, so you can learn about their operations and buy many of their cheeses; they make excellent blue cheeses too. I've heard that some Chicago area Binny's carry Hook's cheeses, but I have not seen them. Keep an eye out. It's a local cheese worth finding.

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