How do we follow up Gruyere d’Alpage?
We offer up the best Cheddar in the world.
Montgomery’s Cheddar is a cheese that, like Gruyere d’Alpage, is rarely seen around here. For a couple of years, the “King of Cheddars” has taken a back seat to our other favorites, Keen’s and Westcombe. But that’s about to change. During my stint at Neal’s Yard this past spring, I had the opportunity to taste an entire year’s worth of batches with head cheesemaker Jamie Montgomery, and let’s just say it peaked my interest.
I’m gonna go ahead and say it: I think the current wheel in the shop is hands down the best Cheddar I’ve ever tasted. The flavor is not a roller-coaster ride or an electrifying zap at your taste buds, but it’s more so the cheese equivalent to the serenity of a beautiful vista. Montgomery’s is grassy, meaty, sweet, fruity, and nutty. It’s earthy up against the rind with a quiet crystalline texture that is both milky and crumbly. I know, that’s an overwhelming amount of descriptors for the flavor of one cheese, and I could go through its slow lovely progression of flavors, but I’d rather you come in and taste it with us at the shop.
As a side note, I think the guidelines should be made clear for what makes Montgomery’s, Keen’s, and Westcombe the only real Cheddars in the world. Unlike other European food cultures, the English made a mistake in not “patenting” their regional artisanal foods. You may be aware of AOC, DOC, or PDO regulation, sadly Cheddar does not have this status, so anyone can call their cheese Cheddar.
A couple of years back, Keen’s, Westcombe, and Montgomery’s created a solid definition of traditional Cheddar. First off, Cheddar must be made with raw milk from the farm’s own herd. It must be clothbound and made in cylindrical forms. It must come from Somerset, a smallish region in Southern England bordering the Atlantic (the birthplace of Cheddar). It must be made using a pint starter from cows in Somerset. (In short, a starter is what activates the milk in the beginning of the cheesemaking process. Cheddar starters must be made by collecting naturally occurring bacteria in milk.) The cheeses must be made with traditional animal rennet and lastly, they must be aged for a minimum of one year.
Regardless if you care about what makes a Cheddar a Cheddar, you should stop by the shop this month and taste another cheese of the month that the four of us are unanimously excited about. Neal’s Yard selected Montgomery’s Cheddar for $22/lb, Happy Holidays!