September 23, 2014

SAY CHEESE | Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Cornell Cheddar

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By ELIZABETH FREEMAN

Whenever I tell someone that I am President of the Cornell Cheese Club, his or her response varies from, “So do you guys, like, eat a lot of cheese?” to “We have a cheese club?” I’m here to answer those two main questions.

In short, we do not … like … eat a lot of cheese. But hear me out! The purpose of the Cornell Cheese Club (CCC) is not to glorify sitting in your dorm room in your underwear watching Netflix and eating cheese (no judgment, though!). Instead, the mission of the CCC is to promote learning about the production, traditions and appreciation of cheese and fermented dairy products. With that goal in mind, we host a variety of events where participants can appreciate cheese as both a food and as an important product of history and culture. You can instantly become a member by joining our group on Facebook, “Cornell Cheese Club.”

To address the other question: Yes, we have a cheese club.

With a majority of my cheese experience being from working as a student intern in the Cornell Dairy Plant, it is only right that my first post be about Cornell’s own cheeses: Big Red Cheddar and A.D. White Cheddar. I preface my review with admitting that my experience with making cheese has honestly been a highlight of my time at Cornell (wow … I need to get out more I guess).

Every type of cheese is made in a unique way, and even cheeses classified as cheddar vary in color, flavor and texture both regionally and globally.

What truly makes cheddar unique as a cheese is the process by which it is made: “cheddaring.” Only after the initial stages of production are completed, the pH is just perfect and the curds are separated from the whey, can cheddaring occur. The future cheddar cheese will be settled along the bottom of the vat; then, they are cut into large squares, all while continuing to drain the liquid whey from the vat.

These large blocks must then be flipped on time intervals that vary dependent on the manufacturer. This is the process of cheddaring: The arduous, but important, manual labor operation by which the cheese is flipped, and ultimately stacked, on top of one another, usually up to four stacks high.

As a student intern, I am usually blessed with the task of manually flipping these heavy, warm, awkward slabs of future-cheese. They say to lift with your legs, but they never mentioned what to do when your legs are straight, and you’re hunched over a vat (which distinctly makes you use your back to lift). My current method for dealing with this physically taxing task is suck-it-up juice.

By flipping and stacking, the cheese flattens out, more whey is drained and eventually these large stacks are then milled into curds, salted and then set in molds. At Cornell, those molds are the two-pound cheese wheels sold at the Cornell Dairy Bar!

Cornell’s Big Red Cheddar and A.D. White Cheddar are both made with milk from the Cornell’s own dairy farm, and are manufactured and “aged to perfection” in the Cornell Dairy Plant. I love the way both of them taste, and I encourage everyone I know to try them.

What makes A.D. White cheddar and Big Red Cheddar distinct from each other? The amount of time they are aged. The aging time length affects both the sharpness and the consistency of cheddar.

Big Red Cheddar is aged for six months, and has a deliciously salty taste to it. Its consistency is hard, but not so hard that one might think it is stale. Despite being referred to as Big Red Cheddar, it has a pleasant yellow-creamy color. If you’re looking for a good pairing to enjoy Big Red Cheddar with, simple crackers (or any type of crunchy carb) work perfectly! For the 21+ crowd, the full flavor and tartness typical of Cabernet Sauvignon will pair well with the delicious Big Red Cheddar. Don’t you think it’s about time to have a wine experience that doesn’t end with you slapping a bag? For the ultimate college experience, find any bottle that’s less than $12.

A.D. White Cheddar is only aged three months, and is a little softer and less sharp than the Big Red Cheddar. This cheese spreads easier, and while the aforementioned cheap crackers are nice, I feel more inclined to pair this with a crispy loaf of French bread. This slightly different cheese deserves a slightly different wine pairing, so I recommend a good ol’ bottle of Pinot Noir, which will pair nicely with the less sharp and softer cheese. Both Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are red wines, but the tannin content and flavors typical of both match this cheddar much better than any white wine could hope to.

Big Red Cheddar and A.D. White cheddar are available for purchase exclusively through Cornell, either at the Dairy Bar or online. I hope you guys enjoy!

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