Deconstructing Montgomery’s Cheddar


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If you’re a cheddar lover, this is your must-try cheese for 2011.

Montgomery’s Cheddar isn’t just an award-winning wedge, it’s a cheese with groupies. Di Bruno’s cheesemonger Ezekial Ferguson loves Montgomery’s so much, he tattooed the label on his shin.

Why the fanaticism? This cheese is made by a highly skilled British cheesemaker named Jamie Montgomery. He oversees every step of production, from milking to draining, cutting, and milling the curd, so that the flavor and texture are superb.

You’ll notice that Montgomery’s is crumbly and that the smell calls to mind a hay barn. That’s authentic farmhouse cheddar. The cheese tastes sweet and brown buttery, in part because the cows pasture on lush wetlands. If you’re into cheese, you know that all those little details are essential.

After all, cheese tastes like what cows eat.

If you’re used to supermarket cheddar, you might find Montgomery’s a little musty. That’s because this style of cheddar – “farmhouse” – is bound in cloth. The wheels are literally bandaged, then rubbed down with lard to seal in moisture. When you a buy a wedge of Montgomery’s at a cheese counter, chances are the cloth will still be on it. Remove it – the cloth isn’t edible.

First, try a bite from around the edge. The flavor will be “cavey.” It’s not to everyone’s liking, but real cheddarheads know that’s part of the experience. What you’re actually tasting is the scent of the cheese barn at Jamie’s farm in Somerset, along with the wooden boards where the wheels are aged.

As you nibble your way inward, you’ll notice the cheese gets sweeter, less earthy. The taste should be bold, yet smooth without any flavor spikes or bitter aftertaste.

If you’re used to Vermont cheddars, which tend to be acidic and bright, you might be surprised by Montgomery’s warm, mellow notes. This is not a cheese that will burn the back of your throat. Let it melt on your tongue, then return for more.

Pairings: apples, walnuts, IPA (i.e. Dogfish Head 90-Minute)

For more cheese redux, visit Madame Fromage