If you’ve only eaten the kind of cheddar shaped like a brick and wrapped in plastic (or wax) then it might be time to try something a tad more complex. Vermont specialty cheddar maker Grafton Village Cheese Company makes a clothbound cheddar, where the cow’s milk cheese is formed into a wheel, wrapped in cheesecloth, and carefully aged for eight to 12 months. There’s chemistry (i.e. mold) involved, and the wheels are brushed and turned as they age. The resulting cheese has a well-balanced, earthy, nutty, slightly caramel-y flavor, and drier, crumblier texture that becomes creamy on the tongue. Cheesemaker Mariano Gonzalez says wrapping cheddar in cloth (also called bandage wrapped) is an old technique, which helps protect and control moisture and allows certain flavors to develop. Do keep in mind the relevant saying that “the bark is worse than the bite,” meaning that the rind can be quite funky smelling, with an earthy, mushroom (and more) aroma, but the cheese is far gentler tasting, finishing with both savory and slightly sweet notes.
There are also excellent clothbound cheddars from Shelburne Farms of Shelburne, Vt., and the “Cabot Clothbound,” aged in the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vt., as well as British varieties. Not only is a wedge of the cheddar a nice addition to a seasonal cheese plate, but crumble some on top of a grilled burger, let it melt, and it will take your favorite summer meal to the next level.
Look for clothbound cheddars at Wasik’s Cheese Shop, 61 Central St., Wellesley, 781-237-0916; Boston Cheese Cellar, 18 Birch St., Roslindale, 617-325-2500; Formaggio Kitchen, 244 Huron Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-4750; and The Cheese Shop, 29 Walden St., Concord, 978-369-5778.