Cheddar was one of the US's first favorite cheeses, and it only continues to grow in popularity. Today, we have a wide variety of cheddar at our fingertips, and each one is as unique as the landscapes on which the animals are grazing. While cheddar originated in Somerset, England (yes, in the village of Cheddar!), the cheesemaking style has since spread all over the world and is beloved by many.
So if it isn't the place of origin, then what makes cheddar, cheddar? The answer is partly in the process - appropriately called "cheddaring". During cheddaring, the curds are cut into slabs and continuously stacked on top of each other on the sides of the vat. This encourages whey expulsion, which also results in the signature texture of many cheddars - crumbly, slightly granular, with visible curds.
Knowing the vast number of cheddars on the market these days, we have to make sure that the way we talk to our customers about cheddar is specific and informative, but not overwhelming to them. We need to make sure that we are providing them with a cheddar that meets their needs and expectations, understanding that they may not have the breadth of cheddar knowledge that we do.
With the flavor profiles of cheddar being as vast as the number of producers, it's always a good idea to start by asking your customer what kind of flavor they are hoping for. You can start with more general questions and use more specific tasting notes to help narrow down the options - Savory or sweet? Grassy or mild? Oniony or nutty? More creamy or more crumbly? Is it for snacking or is it for a recipe? If you have an understanding of the different cheddar offerings at your counter, you can be an effective guide for your customer and help them select the right one for their specific needs. In the process, you are also helping your customer develop their palate and learn more about their tastes and preferences! Taking the extra few minutes to work with your customer in this way creates a connection between you, the customer, and the cheeses and will likely have them coming back to the counter again for more cheese and conversation.