Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel reported on Friday that the country’s oldest and priciest cheddar has been released by a world champion cheese-maker. It’s a 15-year-old cheddar made by Hook’s Cheese Company of Mineral Point, Wis. What an amazing story – wish I could get my hands on some of this cheese – cheddar is one of my favorites!
It’s the single malt scotch of cheddar.
Older cheddars might exist, but if they do, they’re the stuff of private stashes in cheese-maker cellars – not available to the general public, said John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, which hosts national and world cheese competitions.
“I don’t think there’s any cheddar out there older than this one that you can actually buy,” Umhoefer said. “Fifteen years is a good stretch of time to hold a cheddar – perhaps as long as a cheddar can hold for most people’s palates. Making a cheddar that ripe, without it turning bitter or acidic, is a rare skill.”
Julie and Tony Hook are proven cheese-makers; a Colby made by Julie Hook was crowned best cheese in the world at the World Cheese Championship in 1982.
The Hooks kept 1,200 pounds of cheddar in airtight plastic at 38 degrees for 15 years, checking a sample block twice a year to see how it was progressing.
“I knew this was something I could put away for 10 to 12 years,” Tony Hook said. “But it was still excellent at 12 years, so we kept aging it and tasting it. Most people aren’t in the business of investing their money that long in cheese.”
The couple may try aging a 40-pound block for 20 years to meet a growing demand for aged cheddar.
Source: Journal Sentinel Inc.; Copyright 2009, All rights reserved
Photo credit: Mark Hoffman