Yesterday I had the pleasure to partake in my friend Tamara's foodie club. Tamara hosts these delectable 'foodie' parties where there is one themed ingredient and everybody is responsible for bringing a different variety of the item. In the past, the themes included balsamic vinegar, honey and olive oil and yesterday's themed ingredient was cheddar which made me incredibly happy as I am a lover of le fromage!
There were about 15 of us in one room with different wines, crackers, jams as well as port and 20 different cheddars plus 2 bonus cheeses outside of the family (one chevre and one was fontina).
The cheeses varied in colour, milk, age, flavours and where they were bought and it was lucky that none of us bought the same cheeses.
Just a few notes here:
Cheddar cheese is the most widely purchased and eaten cheese in the world and while cheddar was orignally made in England (Tash, our lovely friend from the UK, that is why you were an expert), today cheddar is manufactured in many countries all over the world. As we learned yesterday from our lovely hostess, unlike champagne which refers to the product specifically from a region in France (champagne, France) and other well known cheeses, Cheddar's name is not protected so it has been used by many producers around the world to call out their cheeses. We also learned that we should always pair a lighter cheese with a stronger wine to bring out the flavour of it.
It was also interesting to note that people usually associate cheddar with an orangy colour - most the cheddars that were brought were white which supports why our English friend Tash said that she had never seen an orange cheddar until she came to Canada. In addition we learned the reason some cheddars are orange is because the milk of the cow turns orange when it is aged. Can you tell a lot of information was shared?!!?!
One couple had a 'mystery cheese' that the cheese monger, yes a cheese monger, threw at them to bring to the tasting - it was a Dutch cheese called "Beemster" from a cow that has milk that turns orange when aged. Good grief, was that enough Cheddar education for you in one sitting??
On to the tasting- now I won't go through all 22 different cheeses we had the opportunity to taste but will highlight certain cheeses for your interest. But if you can't tell already, I'm gushing with an overload of information!
The overall reaction was that we were all lucky to be apart of the day but at the end - we were cheese comatosed!
We started from the lighter cheeses to the heavier ones and then afterwards - we started tasting the flavoured cheeses.
General thoughts: - The overwhelming favourite was a cheddar that I bought from my local Italian deli. It was an applewood smoked cheddar that had a buttery texture with a sweet yet smoky taste. As my friend Stacey exclaimed "it was the cheese of indulgence" in her eyes.
- Another favourite included an 8 yr old Quebec orange cheddar which was tangy and complex as the flavour seemed to come out the more it lingered in your mouth.
- 2 store bought cheeses came in as favourites as well - the Baldersen 6 yr old white cheddar which you can buy at Metro or Costco - it had a smoky grainy texture that's tangy and has a zip to it... as well as the 5 year old Canadian PC brand Cheddar which came from Loblaws - it was our first cheese and had a sharp taste but very pleasant.
One cheese had a very distinct smell, it was an aged Leischeshire cheddar which is the only 'authentic' cheddar that was brought for the day. The comments ranged from it being musky, or closety and fishy, to it smelling like feet with hints of a hockey bag. The taste would not ressemble the smell - it was a sharp cheddar with a smokiness and very close to the texture of an English cheese as Tash, our token English friend would remark.
The other thing that was observed was the cheeses that weren't made with traditional cow's milk such as the raw milk cheese, sheep's milk cheese, goat's milks cheese, latose free organic cheese and the amish organic cheese all had softer textures with vavious complex flavour profiles ranging from a bitter after taste (5yr old latose free organic) to almost an earth pow flavour (8 yr old raw milk cheese) and the majority of folks didn't like them.
We had a nice spread of flavoured cheddars as well and amongst them was a pear and vanilla infused white cheddar. This particular cheese was very frangrant and aromatic with scents of vanilla infusing our nostrils, and while certain folks described it as an 'ice creamy cheese', most of us were disappointed with the taste as it didn't reflect the smell- it was ery subtle with little or no vanilla accept however a hint of the flavours of the pear.
Other flavour combinations was a maple infused cheddar which was a crowd pleaser as it was sweet and crumbly and a good dessert cheese. There was a black truffled infused cheese and I jumped with delight as I adore black truffle anything and while it smelt like truffles, unfortunately the truffle taste wasn't overwhelming enough for my liking. We had red wine infused cheese, aged cheedar with port, one cheese with apple, maple, cherry and hickory where all we tasted and smelt was the smokiness of the hickory, a horeradish cheddar which was like a cheese sauce you would pair with roast beef and baked potatoes and finally we tried a sticky toffee cheddar which looked like fudge and tasted like fudge or cookie dough or cheese cake ... you get the idea!
By the end, we were numb with cheesy goodness in our bodies and staring around into space from our cheese fogginess but we will never forget the day where we indulged our little hearts out on le cheddar....