Last week we received a forty pound block of cheddar from our wholesaler in New York. It was a promotional item from a sales circular that only said it was from Vermont. Since we could retail it for ten dollars a pound, we jumped on it. When it arrived here, the heavy plastic wrap was clearly stamped Grafton, which is a brand we purchase in volume for the holiday gift baskets. We never taste those eight ounce waxed cheddar bars because they are usually in and out of the store within a few weeks via the gift trade.
So we cut into the forty pound cheddar last week and immediately I was struck by the texture. Our Widmer's four year old cheddar and other forty pounders we have had here have all been hard and difficult to cut. This one was relatively soft and crumbly and that was an eye-opener. Coming from the midwest this cheese clearly felt different. This almost reminded me of the real stuff, English Cheddar.
With a crumbly cheese, you can't help but taste it, right? Actually anyone standing near the cutting table opportunely gets to taste a crumbly cheese and the feedback (and sales) have been very good on this one. The cheese is creamy and mild but also pleasantly winey enough to work with a light red or medium bodied white wine in my opinion and I don't usually think of cheddar that way.
The following is information gleaned from the Grafton website, www.graftonvillagecheese.com:
The company was formed in 1892 as a cooperative to support small neighboring dairy farms. After its original physical plant was destroyed by fire, the nonprofit Windham Foundation of Grafton, Vermont, with a similar cooperative philosophy, rebuilt that cheese plant and later built another one in Brattleboro, Vermont as the business grew.
Grafton markets many dairy products along with other goodies but essentially just four cheddars, aged one through four years. Our unmarked forty pound block is probably the one year old. They also offer a maplewood chip smoked cheddar.
Grafton uses no artificial hormones in their cheeses and their rennet is not animal based, therefore it is suitable for vegetarians. In 2010 they hired cheesemaker Dane Huebner who has added a line of eight cave aged artisanal cheeses which may be seen at their website. We will inquiry as to the availability of these soon.
At next Friday's wine tasting (5-7pm) we will set out the Grafton just as we did last Friday. Please come and taste.