Nicodemus (nicodemusrat) wrote,

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Answers #9

This is an answer to my Ask Me Anything post. Add any new questions over there.

What about cheese?

Well, what do I think about cheese? Yummy. Essential rat snack.

Cheese is great stuff. It's a dense source of protein and calcium. (As well as saturated fats, so don't overindulge.) Cheese is also thought to be one of the oldest forms of preserved food; it allowed milk to be stored and transported effectively back in ancient times.

Most people in this country generally only eat cheese made from pasteurized cow milk. But goat, sheep, and other mammals can result in cheeses with distinctively different flavors. With a little tasting experience, you can pretty reliably identify the animal used to produce the cheese. Pasteurization is mostly a safety concern, but it does limit some of the flavors; personally, I think it's a worthwhile tradeoff.

So what's my favorite cheese? I'm almost sorry to say that it's not some exotic tiny-south-of-France-farm-village specialty. My favorite cheese is cheddar.

But there are actually many kinds of cheddar; I wouldn't want you to think that the slices of generic pseudo-cheddar in the grocery store are the limits of this fine family. The term "cheddar" itself refers to the pressing which removes a great deal of the water content. (The term is derived from the English town of Cheddar where this was widely used by the cheesemakers.)

Fine cheddars have a complex and sharp flavor, and distinctive aftertaste, without becoming either too sour or too pungent. The texture should be firm, sometimes almost crumbly. Handling and aging is important to develop the flavor and character of a cheddar, which is why the mass-produced cheddars really don't "stack up" (a little cheese pun, there). Something like an aged farmhouse cheddar, with just a hint of smokiness, can be a real thing of beauty.

My tip would be to always keep a few high-quality cheeses in the fridge. They make good snacks! More aged and refined cheeses often have more complex and strident flavors; you'll tend to eat them more slowly, since the taste is stronger in the mouth. This makes less cheese go farther when you're gnawing your way through a block of cheddar while watching a movie... (Uh, yeah, I actually do that. Maybe I've said too much?)
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