Sharp White Cheddar

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One of the cheeses stands alone

You would think, with all the sniffing, that this was a wine tasting. Instead, seven brands of sharp white cheddar had our noses doing some detective work. The cheeses were aged anywhere from 60 days to 9 months, during which time they develop flavor and texture.

We ate them at room temperature with plain crackers, slices of crisp apple, and sparkling water. Several bites into the tasting, someone asked, “Don’t you think this would go down better with wine?” The tasters seemed to want more from the cheeses; many brands didn’t have the bite or the texture we expected. Several people found them “bland and rubbery.” Cabot Cheese of Vermont came out on top, with comments like “nice crumble and tang.”

These cheeses, of course, are intended to appeal to a broad spectrum of tastes. This might explain one comment about Cracker Barrel – “I found this cheese satisfyingly bland.” Unimpressed with the options, one person wrote this on her notes: “I am falling asleep over here, the whole world looks like one giant, pale yellow flavorless block. There is no more real food, only differently packaged lipids.”

But the crew of seven woke up when they tasted Shaw’s Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar. They showed outright contempt for this cheese. Several people looked as if they had tasted something bad; one person spit it out. When they were done, someone lined up the leftover cheeses, trying to decide which one would be good bait for a mouse trap.

Cabot Sharp Cheddar Cheese Winner
$6.58 for 1 pound

Many commented on the texture of this Vermont-made cheese. “Very good! Sort of dry, but in a good way. Nice flavor, good bite.” “Appears to have a real cheese consistency. It has an aged, slightly brittle appearance, which makes me think it is good. Flavor is lacking, but still real.” “The consistency sets it above the rest, nice flavor, not too rubbery.” “Sharp, but not tangy.” “Best of bunch, not scary, good sharp flavor.”

Cracker Barrel Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
$5.58 for 1 pound

This cheese got good marks for being “creamy” and for its ordinary taste. “Creamy, not that sharp, kind of mellow, kind of bland.” “Similar to airplane cheese or what you would get at a conference. Not something I would buy.” “Satisfyingly bland.” “Whipped and recongealed, but with a pleasant sharp taste. Creamy delight. Would probably be good melting cheese.” “A little gummy and pasty, but good flavor.” “A little oily.”

Crystal Farms Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
$5.58 for 1 pound

This Wisconsin-made cheese elicited these comments: “Not delicious, not offensive, just sort of there. Like thick, gooey air.” “No resemblance to cheddar. Slightly oily and leaves a film in my mouth.” “Not much flavor. The after-taste actually has more flavor than when eating it.” “The most bland.” Another said, “Is it my imagination or does it actually have some flavor? I just may detect a tiny tang!”

Heluva Good Sharp Cheddar Cheese
$6.38 for 1 pound

This cutesy title resulted in a chorus of negatives. “More like `helluva a horrible cheese,”‘ said one. “Hits like a wet blanket.” “Really rubbery, little taste, no sharpness. Second worst.” “Pretty nasty. Like eating soft plastic. Weird bland flavor.” And the lowest blow: “Like whipped styrofoam with subtle bitterness.”

Land O Lakes Aged Sharp Cheddar Cheese
$5.18 for 1 pound

This cheese offended no one. “Good sharp taste, texture a bit strange. Cheese bends up when trying to break off a piece.” “Nice texture. Made my teeth stick together a bit, but still good.” “Definitely something you would get on an airplane.” One astute observer likened it to another product for which this manufacturer is known: “Looks like a large pat of butter and pretty much tastes and smells like one.” Another: “The Velveeta of cheddar.”

Shaw’s Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar Cheese
$4.78 for 1 pound

“Maybe not even good enough for a mouse trap,” wrote one taster. Voted least favorite by four out of seven. “Not even sure what this is and I don’t want to try any more to see.” “Tastes old and musty.” “Weird chemical taste. Might work well as furniture glide.” (This participant was later observed rubbing the leftover piece on a wooden table.) “Yuck! Had to spit it out.”

Yancey’s Fancy Sharp Cheddar Cheese
$7.99 for 1 pound

“Good texture, benign flavor, no real bite.” “Not bad, slightly crumbly, not very sharp.” “Something served at a bad cocktail party with cheap wine in a box.” “A little stronger with a bit of a strange aftertaste.” “Sharp tangy flavor and strong scent.” “Tastes like fake cheese flavor. Not good.”

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