Cheese Revelry and Revelations

Last night we celebrated a couple wonderful things:

1. The launch of The Cheesemaker’s Apprentice- a little publication that involved myself, David Bleckman, and Leela Cyd

David, Leela and I had so much FUN working on this book together and we attempted to share that joy of mad-scientist-type-curiosity and discovery with readers and burgeoning home cheesemakers. 

We’ve got five copies left that are signed by all three of us and many more that are begging for your personalized inscription- anyone who comes in and buys a book between now and the end of December will receive a taste of the incredible wheel of Montgomery’s Cheddar we opened last night. (Note that one of the interviews in the book is with cheesemaker James Montgomery!)

2. The much anticipated arrival and ceremonious opening of a pristine wheel of Montgomery’s Cheddar that came to us, from England, by boat from the esteemed Neal’s Yard Dairy.

So what’s the big deal about this cheddar? For starters it is a fifty-three pound wheel. This is more cheese than most folks have had the opportunity to examine at close range. To give you a reference point for just how much food this is- if we broke the wheel down into 1 ounce portions we could serve approximately 845 people. And those people would be really really really happy- because this cheddar is delicious.

The Montgomery family have dedicated themselves to producing a cheddar that honors the great tradition of Cheddar in England. The name cheddar is used for all sorts of cheeses that might not even go through the actual cheddaring process (yes, cheddar is a verb too) which you can read about here. Here is one of my favorite excerpts from my interview with James Montgomery that touches on the challenge traditional cheddar producers face in explaining how the cheese that they make is different from other cheddars on the market:

Is it challenging that the name cheddar represents such a spectrum of cheeses. 

Cheddar as a cheese was very unfortunate wasn’t it? It was so unlucky to be a cheese made within an empire forming governance and a cheese that everybody with their view towards being international said, wow that would be a really good cheese to be able to make industrially. Now whether what everybody else is calling cheddar is really cheddar is too late for us to argue.

So you are defining what you do with the West Country Farmhouse Cheddar PDO and the Artisan Somerset Cheddar Presidium instead of trying to argue that what someone else does is not cheddar?

It’s too late. And to flip it on its head a lot of people have said to me, really James what you ought to do is stop calling yours cheddar and come up with some other name for it. They have a point there because the association is so bad, but that would be letting all the other makers off the hook—all these people that are making this stuff and calling it cheddar—we need to be there just to remind them what charlatans they really are. 

Our wheel was made on the 22nd of October, 2011 (a Saturday just in case you were wondering). There are no sharp or jaggedy edges to the flavors- and the texture is like that of clay, solid until it hits your tongue and begins to melt and dissolve. 

We are going to sell the Montgomery’s at a 10% discount throughout December- that makes it $27 per pound. So get down here and buy a wedge to enjoy through the holidays on cheese plates, transcendent grilled cheese sandwiches, and maybe even baked into the crust of an apple pie.