Cheddar: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Most Iconic Cheese by Gordon Edgar

Cheddar: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Most Iconic Cheese, Gordon Edgar (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015)

I love cheese, came of age in Wisconsin, and at one time – briefly – was even a “cheese monger.” And I loved Gordon Edgar’s look into the manufacture of cheddar cheese.

My husband tells of the day his then-mother-in-law came home in tears from her work at a small family-owned cheese factory in south central Wisconsin. Kraft had recently bought the facility and was making major changes in the production of “her” cheese: “It’s not the same… they’ve ruined it!”

I also experienced “small town cheese” when I lived not far from Colby, Wisconsin, which sits near the geographic center of the state. Colby is the source of a mild semi-hard cheese derived from a process similar to the making of cheddar, but without the “cheddaring.” (Edgar will tell you exactly what that is.) We regularly stopped at the old Colby plant, now gone, to buy “squeaky curds.”

Read Cheddar! You’ll learn the history and the production process that gives us today’s amazing farmhouse cheddar cheeses. And then seek out a cheese monger who can sell you his best. I highly recommend well-aged cheddar, to me the older, the better – but that’s only true of a quality cheese. Aged mediocre is still mediocre!

You’ll also read about the anathema to good cheddar: Velveeta, that bright orange rubbery brick of “cheese food” that could only be best described as an “edible food-like substance,” à la Michal Pollan.

Get out some good quality artisan bread, cut two pieces, butter one side of each, slice some farmhouse cheddar cheese – not too thick, and make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich. Take a bite, wipe the grease off your hands, and enjoy this book. Both the book and the sandwich will leave you quite satisfied.

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