The Fine Art of Aging
A Delicate Balance
Like a fine wine, a classic cheddar requires quality ingredients, the
skilled eye and palate of a master craftsman and years of carefully
aging and nurturing.
At Balderson, we naturally begin with the very finest dairy ingredients.
Then, under the watchful eye of our Master Cheese Maker, the aging
begins. The ingredients are simple and basic…the best milk from the
Ottawa Valley, our own bacterial culture that can’t be duplicated
elsewhere, calf rennet to provide superior aging, salt and, for our orange
cheddar, a natural food colouring.
The process can take from two or three months to five years and it can’t
be simulated or rushed.
All Balderson Cheddars are naturally aged and with each passing year of
aging the cheese slowly matures and develops unique characteristics that
change the flavor, texture, appearance and aroma.
In The Beginning: Mild
All Cheddars begin mild. And if it isn’t perfect at that stage,
no amount of aging will improve its flavour.
Just the right balance of milk fat (32 percent) and moisture (37 percent)
gives a fine, freshly made Cheddar a pleasant, milky aroma and a soft resilient
texture. A good mild Cheddar should be solid throughout, with no cracks,
pinholes and breaks.
And of course, a good mild Cheddar develops into a medium cheddar
taking on just a hint of sharpness – a promise of good things yet to come.
Adding the Bite
As the months pass, mild Cheddar begins to lose moisture, and its texture
becomes drier and more crumbly.
Most important of all, it starts to take on a secondary taste – a signature
sharpness that results from the increased levels of salt and acids that
naturally accompany aging. The cheese maker’s challenge is to maintain
a pleasing balance between the original Cheddar flavour that comes
from the bacterial or starter culture, and this developing sharpness.
A Cheddar’s “bite” becomes very noticeable at around 12 months, producing
Balderson Old. And at 18 months, the sharp taste begins to overtake
the original mild cheddar flavour, resulting in Balderson Extra Old.
But for some cheeses, that’s just the beginning.
From Mild to Masterpiece
Most connoisseurs of aged Cheddar consider the oldest cheeses to
the masterpieces of the cheese maker’s art.
Balderson Premium Aged Cheddars begin at two full years of aging and
become increasingly sharper, saltier and dramatically more crumbly in
texture and, like a fine wine, more complex in taste and appreciation.
But even with the extra aging, a superior Cheddar retains a creamier body,
clean aroma and clears the palate.
Under the care and attention of the Master Cheese Maker, the passing years
eventually produce Balderson’s two finest Cheddars: Heritage 3 Year Cheddar
and Heritage 5 Year Cheddar.
And for those who love mature Cheddar, the wait has been worth it.