One may wonder who the daring soul was who first curdled his milk and thought, “Hey, this lumpy stuff doesn’t look that bad, I’ll give it a try.” Whoever he is, many mouths across the world today have him to thank while enjoying the delicious luxury of cheese.
As those who took the Science and Cooking class or attended this class over OWAW know, cheese consists of the coagulated proteins of milk, which often happens when the milk is acidified or heated up to a certain degree. The solid clumps that remained are pressed together and are treated to eventually become the cheese that ends up on plates and crackers across America. Hundreds of varieties of cheeses are made, depending on the type of milk, pasteurization, bacteria, mold, and many other scientific considerations. Not to mention those varieties in which spices and herbs are added to increase flavor.
One of the most recognized cheeses is cheddar. Cheddar is the most popular variety in the U.K. and holds second place in the U.S. behind mozzarella. To be considered cheddar, the cheese must go through the aptly named “cheddaring” process. Cheddaring involves kneading with salt and repeated flipping and stacking of curd slabs until the desired maturation and acidity level is reached.
Generally a relatively hard cheese, cheddar is characterized by its yellow to off-white color and sharp, pungent flavor. When many young children think of cheddar cheese, they picture Kraft. However, the classic orange Kraft color comes from a food coloring combination of annatto, an extract from seeds of the achiote tree, and paprika extract.
“Vermont Cheddar” is one of the most popular cheddar varieties in the United States. While most white cheddar in the U.S. gets this title, regardless of whether or not it was made in Vermont, the state actually boasts the “Vermont Cheese Trail,” consisting of 42 farms and cheesemakers one could visit if vacationing in the area. Unfortunately, Vermont does not take the prize for the highest production of cheddar cheese in U.S. – this crown goes to the state of Wisconsin.
While cheese is a beloved component of many peoples’ diets, New England has lost over 66% of its dairy farms in the past 20 years due to low milk prices and high production costs. However, many farmers have seen the silver lining. As the federal government regulates milk prices, those looking to increase their profits have taken up cheese making.
As part of its support for local agriculture, HUHDS features Vermont Cheddar at Chef’s Tables throughout campus. Head on over to your dining hall and give it a try – who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired for your next Spring Break!