The 2010 Winter Olympics weren’t the only competition to kick off last Friday. With the release of a second batch of Hook’s 15-Year Cheddar in Wisconsin, the hunt for geriatric cheese is officially on.
In December, cheesemakers Tony & Julie Hook in Mineral Point put 1,200 pounds of their super smooth, crumbly and not-a-bitter-note-to-be-seen-15-year Cheddar on the market. It promptly sold out within two weeks with customers literally fighting over the last wedge at area cheese shops. This time, the Hooks will sell 1,600 pounds, with the majority of it already at area specialty cheese shops and restaurants.
In Madison, the cheese is available at Fromagination, Metcalfe Sentry, Hy-Vee and Whole Foods. If you don’t live Wisconsin, do not, I repeat, do not despair. You can order it from Fromagination, which when I breezed in today, was abuzz with phone and mail orders, shipping out blocks of $60-pound Cheddar like it was candy at a parade. Fromagination is also sell a “cheese flight” of 2-, 5-, 10-, 12- and 15-year cheddars, which includes a sheet of tasting notes. Poof! Instant cheese party.
So what’s the difference between a 2-Year Cheddar and a 15-Year Cheddar? It’s all about intensity of flavor. Good Cheddar will become richer, nuttier and increasingly “sharp” with age. Its firm texture will become more granular and crumbly. By the time it’s 12 years old, a good Cheddar will be almost beefy with a caramel tone. At 15-years, it’s in a class all its own. Tony compares it to a single-malt scotch, because yes, it’s that good.
If you miss this round of 15-year Cheddar, in good news, Tony has another batch aging and expects to release it in December. After that, who knows? Tony says he’ll have to continue to taste the current aging cheddars to determine their fate. Let’s hope there’s some late bloomers in there.