Many of you may recall my recounting previous experiences with the Elder Cheeses. I’ve always been fond of aged cheddar, and in recent years my go-to cheddar for daily sandwich/snack use is a 5 year old white cheddar, bought in 5 lb blocks from my local cheese factory.
But I long ago discovered that the cheddars became much more interesting once their ages reached the double digits. Sharper, with those yummy crystallized protein compounds distributed throughout the slice. Yum!
And while the 12, 15, and 17 year old cheddars were more and more delicious, they didn’t quite shine the same way as that lovely sample of 28 year old cheddar I got a while back. We hung onto a piece of that until it hit 30, then knocked it off at a family celebration.
But I’d always been disappointed that truly elder swiss cheeses were just not available. The commercial “aged” swiss is mostly crap, and even the local factories that specialize in swiss would rarely make a product older than 2 years, for sampling. It could be quite nice at that age, but not all that remarkable.
However, with persistence, I did find a few samples of Swiss that was 4 and even 5 years old. Quite nice! A rich, nutty flavor that was rather assertive on the palate. And best of all, the sample would often contain a deeply amber liquid in the holes in the cheese, which was the absolute essence of everything I like about swiss cheese flavor.
But it always lacked the crystallized proteins that made the elder cheddars so nice.
Until I got my hands on the 9 year old sample. That surfaced at a local cheese factory that also specializes in gathering a wide variety of other local cheeses, with an emphasis on artisanal types, AND elder cheeses. And though their cheddar selection maxed out at a 19 year old sample, it recently offered 9 year old swiss.
I grabbed some of that earlier this spring, but only got around to sampling it tonight, when I realized life was passing by too rapidly, and I should not defer tasting this gem for much longer.
The flavor is appropriately swissy, only a bit moreso. The holes are unfortunately small and less numerous than I’d like, but the liquid contained therein is likewise rich in essence of the cheese type. But best of all: A ton of crystallized protein for a wondrously textured and flavored crunch!!
I put some on a chicken sandwich, with garlic-parmesan bread and nothing else to distract it, and it is wondrous. But it’s best served on a plain rice cracker, which brings out the flavors I want, without adding extra elements. Or just thinly sliced with my favorite Spar brand cheese slicer.
Side note: Only Spar has the keen edge needed to cleanly slice those elder cheeses, in my experience. And since Spar went out of business decades ago, I’m guarding my two remaining Spar slicers jealously! They do occasionally come up on the secondary market, at eBay or elsewhere, but it can take a bit of effort to locate the right one.
So as my current stash of 19 and 17 year old cheddar slowly ages (surprisingly, at the same rate that I do, 1 second per second), I plan to savor this nice elder swiss with select family and friends.
Anyone else out there enjoying elder varieties of classic kaas? I had my hands on some 7 year old gouda (from the Netherlands) some years back that was a wonder, but other than cheddar and swiss, and the occasional treasure that is a stravecchione, I don’t see many other varieties of the hard cheeses being aged much beyond a year or two. And while I do savor a good soft cheese, those generally are NOT improved by prolonging the ageing process.