We are in the small Vermont town of Cabot, and have just completed the factory tour of the cheese making facility. Now comes the good bit.. the tasting , where we can get down the business of rating Vermont Cheeses against the ones we are used to eating back home in The Netherlands.
First let’s look at the cheeses that American’s call ” Sharp” … they mean ” old cheese” by this, and it’s supposed to have some age and a less mild, sharper taste. Hmmm… I tasted them, tasted again and quizzed hubby so that we would compare notes.
The result to us both is very obvious.. ” sharp” in the American sense is like a month old puppy attempting to gnaw your finger off.. ” sharp” in the Dutch sense is like a pit bull inhaling your entire arm and not letting go.
I think that if I took a wheel or two of decently aged “sharp” Dutch cheese to any large shopping mall in the USA and gave away free samples, the recipients wouldn’t know what hit their taste buds.
“Shock” probably wouldn’t even come close.
Aged cheese for me almost always means a crumbly cheese… it’s a by-product of the aging process… I didn’t see any ” sharp” cheese in the USA that was anything less than gently rubbery in form. A lightly aged cheese (Dutch style) is usually quite dry in texture, a very good aged one is parched in comparison, and for the uninitiated might take some years of taste testing to get used to as the flavours are bold, in a rich, deep and forceful way.
These are the kind of cheeses that requires careful planning of your after dinner digestive drinks and wines to compliment your cheeses on offer, and NOT the planning your cheese to compliment your wines. The difference between this is subtle, and will illustrate clearly which of the two is the star of the show.
So… that’s our opinion of Vermont’s finest ” sharp” cheese, for us even those labeled “extra sharp” or “seriously sharp” were not really sharp at all, just maybe less mild than the cheddars on offer (which are mega super mild). If that’s what the local market knows and likes, then hey, more power to them, but after tasting sharp cheese here I have just considerably upped my respect for the lady who’s been stashing her cheese away at home for some serious aging, amid the bemused smiles of her colleagues… surely she must have some Dutch blood in her family tree somewhere?
Kudos to you dear lady!
One thing that you can not accuse Cabot Creamery of, is stinginess.. there are a multitude of cheeses on offer and when the supply is low they replenish liberally. Of course that meant that we need to indulge around the tasting table, as we needed to know which cheeses would make it to the ” gotta-buy-this-one” list.
The herbed cheeses fared better in our estimation … tomato basil was nice and so was the one with jalapeno’s in it … but since we couldn’t all agree, these ones didn’t make it onto our purchase list.
We do end up with a nice not-so-small stash of cheeses to take with us.. some as far as the car park intended for a picnic lunch in the car, and some to take back to our hosts in Maine.
I especially liked the Sage cheese, a limited edition cheese… the garlic cheese was divine… we bought several herb cheeses, also some herb and onion dips that Cabot have out in the shop as experimental lines to gauge the publics response before producing them on a larger scale… Cabot.. if you are reading this, This Public loved those
Yes we bought a “seriously sharp” as well … and crackers, and abandoned the plan of finding a playground because it was now raining hard outside… so we camp in the car and enjoy our lunch whilst the rain streams down the windows. Afterwards I dash though the rain to get the kids some small tubs of Ben & Jerry’s… and with tummy’s full and everyone happy we head for Route 2 EAst that will wind our way all the way back to central Maine.