What process makes cheddar cheese "sharp" vs "mild"?

So I ask Le Companion to pick up a block of cheddar while in store for other things, and I add “get the sharp or the extra sharp”. I am asked “How is it different?” I answer in a somewhat disparaging manner that I am astonished that she does not know. Sharp cheddar is

…sharper? :confused:
Well, OK, I could describe the difference in taste with other adjectives, but I was in mid-realization, as it was now dawning on me that unless each hoop is sampled and graded by cheese samplers, that wasn’t much of an explanation. If there’s something different that they do to it to make it sharp or mild or extra sharp or medium or whatever, I don’t know what it is any more than she does.

Any of you Vermont or Wisconsin folks in a position to clue me in?

It’s all about thiol compounds.

Here’s a nice powerpoint about aged cheddar. http://www.fst.ohio-state.edu/People/HARPER/Parker%20Chair/PwrPntPresentations/ADSA%20Jim1.ppt

basically, the longer a cheddar is aged, the more thiol compounds develop. These thiol compounds seem to correlate with the sensation of “sharpness”

Whose dad was born in an old cheese factory, and whose aunt still works in one.

Behold, The power of sulfur!

It’s definitely the aging time. I once bought a block of mild cheddar cheese, put it in the refrigerator and forgot about it. :smack: When I rediscovered it, I was able to enjoy a small feast of extra sharp cheddar cheese. :wink:

So, if he messes up and gets mild, just age it yourself. :cool:

I’m guessing that sharp is the term used in the USA for cheese that has been aged longer than other cheeses i.e. mature in the UK ?

I was unable to view the Powerpoint linked by QtM but I would suggest that the flavour development in Cheddar is not only about thiols. Proteolysis of the milk proteins is significant but breakdown of the milk fats or lipids is also important. The textbooks from my cheesemaking days are long gone but I found the following pdf which is consistent with what I was taught:


mmm. Aged cheddar. But I wanna know how long Kat left cheese in the fridge.

It must have been a long time. If I remember my cheese package right, sharp cheese is aged anywhere from 6-12 months, wheras mild seems to be around the 3 month mark. So that’s 3 months in the fridge. A block of cheese the size of a car battery wouldn’t last that long in my fridge.

Cheesehead checking in here.

Although I don’t know the actual chemistry behind it, generally, the longer the cheese is aged, the sharper the taste.

Renard’s Cheese sells cheddar from 1 day old (fresh curds) to 4 years (very sharp).

An interesting fact: some cheeses are colored by dyes. Renard’s sells an excellent 2-year old “white” cheddar without the traditional dark yellow dye. It’s not pure white, just a very light yellow. Mmmmm. Slice me a slab and hand me a beer.

Feh. That’s mild to me. I’ve a block of cheddar in my fridge 9 years old! For me, aged doesn’t even start until 2 years, and doesn’t get good until 3 or 4!

Does that mean you’ve had the cheese in your refrigerator for 9 years, Qadgop? If so, doesn’t it tend to get covered with mold?

And how do they keep it from molding over while aging at the cheese factory, anyway?

As far as I know, all orangeish and reddish cheddars are dyed. Traditionally, natural coloring made from annatto seeds (aka achiote) are used.

As for keeping cheese from getting moldy. In a reasonably dry environment, you don’t have to worry about that too much. But if the cheese does start getting molding, you just take a damp wet cloth and wipe the mold off. Another option is waxing the cheese.

It’s got a nice wax seal on it. I bought it at the specialty shop at age 8, and am keeping it around a bit longer.

I had a 5 pound wheel of cheddar we took to 10 years once before it got et. Now that was so sharp I could shave with it. But I used it on english muffins and in omelets instead.

Mmmm :slight_smile:

Thanks, folks!

Can mild or sharp be similarly applied to he whom cut the cheese? :stuck_out_tongue:

Now c’mon Doc - that would make you only 17! Or were you a child prodigy? :wink:

No, he bought the cheese a year ago. It had already aged 8 years when he bought it.

Nah, QtM was clearly quite the prodigy. Or was that Prodigal?

The tricky part is explaining Elfbabe (is that the right nick?)

I’m gonna raid QtM’s fridge.

To get to the cheese, you’ll have to get past the ostrich summersausage, the vegemite, the marmite, the habanero jelly, the pepper extract sauce, and some birch syrup. The spruce jelly went bad and had to be tossed. :frowning: