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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Cheese/Yogurt/Dairy

RECIPE: Torta Española, Spanish Omelet


A torta española. The omelet can be customized in endless ways. Photo courtesy PaperChef.


Our review of Diestel Ranch turkey chorizo inspired us to whip up a torta española for breakfast.

One of the most popular uses for crumbled chorizo is in a torta española, or Spanish omelet. Made with eggs, potatoes and onions, the recipe is customized with whatever ingredients you have on hand: cooked meats, sausage, other vegetables and herbs.

In Spain, it is served at any time of the day: for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or as tapas with a glass of wine. We sometimes serve a slice with a green salad as a first course.

To Americans, a torta will resemble a crustless quiche; but it’s made without cream or milk, and is cooked in a skillet rather than baked.

It’s an easy recipe, the most taxing part of which is flipping the half-cooked omelet onto a plate and then back into the pan. But you’ll have fun doing it.

Prep time 15 minutes, cook time 30 minutes. If you happen to have leftover boiled potatoes, you can use them and save 20 minutes of cooking the raw potatoes.


Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 4 eggs, scrambled in a large bowl
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or parsley, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Customize: diced bell pepper (green, orange, yellow and/or red), grated cheese, ham or chorizo, diced tomato (fresh/sundried), etc.
  • Garnish: chopped green onions or extra cilantro or parsley*


    1. ADD the vegetable oil to a large skillet until the pan is filled halfway. Heat over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the potato slices and onion, making sure they are well-covered by the oil; add more oil if necessary. Cook for 20 minutes until the potatoes and onions are soft. Drain the oil and combine the potato mixture with the eggs and herbs. Add the salt and mix well.

    2. ADD the olive oil to a separate, nonstick, skillet, 10 inches by 2-1/2 inches deep. Heat over medium-high heat and add the potato, egg, and onion mixture. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the bottom of the omelet is very light brown.

    3. USING a flat ceramic plate, cover the frying pan and flip the omelet over onto the plate. Immediately slip the uncooked side back into the pan. Cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the other side is a very light brown.

    4. REMOVE the omelet to a plate and cut into 4 wedges for breakfast, smaller slices for a first course.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Truffle Cheese

    One of our favorite cheese experiences is truffle cheese. It provides all the pleasure of a shaved truffles dish at a fraction of the price. The cheese makers use bits and pieces that have fallen off the precious truffles during handling.

    Truffle cheeses are typically made from a blend of cow’s milk and sheep’s milk or cow’s milk and goat’s milk. One of our favorites is made from only goat’s milk. Any truffle lover who tries these cheeses gets hooked.

    If you can’t find the cheeses locally, you can get excellent-quality varieties from, which sells individual cheeses plus a truffle cheese assortment.

    Here are two we’ve been enjoying recently.


    Bloomy-rinded, semisoft Truffle Tremor, from California’s Cypress Grove Chevre, is imbued with truffle aroma and flavor, dotted with black Italian summer truffles (Tuber aestivum Vittadini) truffles throughout. Elegant and sophisticated, it is a luxurious table cheese.

    Among its many awards over the years are First Place at the American Cheese Society Awards in 2014, First Place at the 2014 World Championship Cheese Contest and the Super Gold at the 2014 World Cheese Awards.

    It’s a perfect marriage of ripened goat cheese and truffles, delivering floral, herb and mushroom notes. Made 200 miles north of San Francisco, it’s an earth-shaking masterpiece.



    A slice of heaven: Truffle Tremor. Photo courtesy Cypress Grove Chevre.

    Since its creation, Truffle Tremor was only made in a three-pound wheel; you’d buy a wedge—or the whole wheel for $75.00. Now, it’s also available in a one-pound mini ($25.00).

    It’s available at many fine cheese stores, and online at

    For Mother’s Day or other special dinner, we like to serve a slice of the cheese with a green salad (lightly tossed in vinaigrette), or with sweet accompaniments. For a Truffle Tremor dessert plate, for every eight ounces of cheese serve:

  • ½ cup candied ginger
  • ½ cup candied pecans
  • ½ cup candied orange peel (recipe)
  • Optional raisin or walnut bread
  • 1 bottle dessert wine or equivalent dessert beer
    Or, a simple drizzle of honey (how about truffle honey!) with slices of baguette will do nicely.
    Note For Connoisseurs

    Truffleur is another great, semisoft American truffle cheese, produced by Tumalo Farms in Oregon. This is another goat cheese, infused with native Oregon white truffles, then aged three to four months.

    It’s rare to find a white truffle cheese. The flavor and aroma are distinctively different from black truffles. Because the cheese is relatively mild, the truffle flavor really comes through at the finish—wonderful! Since it is made with the local truffle harvest, this cheese is seasonal, usually available only December through February. So mark your calendar.

    Semihard, in addition to the cheese plate it can be used to make a spectacular mac and cheese, or to melt atop a burger.



    Fromager d’affinois with Périgord truffles. Photo courtesy Fromagerie Guilloteau.



    From France, this variety of fromager d’affinois, a Brie-like double-crème cow’s milk cheese, is a beautiful blend of the creamy cheese with the subtle earthiness of the truffles.

    The black truffles are from Périgord—the best truffles in the world. It is a seasonal product that is in store for the holidays from October to January and then again in March through May.

    You can find it now in most gourmet/specialty stores, Whole Foods Markets, Trader Joe’s (as a unit size under their label called the Truffle Brie) and some Costco stores. Learn more at

    These tips should be followed with all fine cheese:

    Forget the plastic wrap: Re-wrapping soft-ripened cheese in wax paper or parchment paper will allow the cheese to breath as it continues to ripen.

    Keep the cheese cold (33°-35°F) and remove from the fridge at least one hour before serving.



    These are the favorite pairings from the folks at Cypress Grove Chevre:


  • Barleywine
  • Trippel
    White Wines

  • Gewürztraminer
  • Riesling
    Red Wines

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pinot Noir
  • Zinfandel
    Dessert Wines

  • Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine
  • Moscato
  • Port
  • Sweet Sherry

    Check out our comprehensive article and glossary of the different truffle types.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Siggi’s Skyr, Icelandic Yogurt

    We remember when Siggi Hilmarsson’s skyr (pronounced SKEER), Icelandic-style strained yogurt, first appeared on the shelves of Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village.

    Hailing from Iceland, the transplanted New Yorker found the yogurts in the U.S. too sweet and not thick enough—even the Greek-style yogurts. So in 2004 he started to make his own, in his kitchen. Today, Siggi’s skyr is available nationally, to the delight of many.

    This is not bargain yogurt. It’s even pricier than Greek brands—and it’s thicker than Greek yogurt as well. The reason is, more milk is required to produce the same quantity. You get what you pay for.

    Greek-style yogurt is thicker than American-style yogurt because more water is strained out of the whey—it’s triple strained. But skyr is drained even more. Think of it as quadruple-strained yogurt. One cup of Siggi’s skyr requires four times more milk than a typical American brand.

    The result is so thick that a spoon stands up straight in the cup; yet it has 0% fat (some flavors are lowfat, 2%). The concentration of milk also delivers more calcium and protein.



    A bowl of Siggi’s skyr with pomegranate arils. Photo courtesy Siggi’s Dairy.


    In Iceland, skyr is typically fat-free because all the cream is been removed to make butter.

    If you look for information on skyr, you may find it referred to as a cheese. So is it yogurt or cheese? It depends on the recipe of the individual producer.

    The recipe arrived in Iceland from Norway in the Middle Ages. It most likely was originally made as a cheese, with rennet. These days, some ism some isn’t. Siggi’s is yogurt.

    The difference between a cultured dairy product, such as sour cream or yogurt, and a fresh cheese that looks just like it, such as fromage blanc or quark, is the addition of a coagulant, such as rennet.

    With cottage cheese and ricotta, you can see the curds. With fromage blanc and quark (and most other cheeses), you can’t, because of the particular recipe. You also can’t tell the difference by tasting it. The textures of sour cream, yogurt, fromage blanc and quark are very similar.

    Don’t confuse these fresh cheeses with yogurt cheese like labneh.

  • Regular yogurt is made by combining milk with live cultures. It is available plain and flavored, made from whole milk (5% fat), lowfat (1%) and fat-free (0%).
  • Greek yogurt follows the same recipe, but is triple strained, removing a portion of by the whey. This creates a thicker yogurt that is higher in protein. It may or may not be tangier than regular yogurt, depending on the processes of the particular brand.
  • Skyr, Icelandic yogurt, is even thicker than Greek yogurt. Think of it as quadruple-strained. It is made from skim milk (0%)—the cream is skimmed off to make butter. In Iceland it is often made from raw milk, which is not legal in the U.S. for fresh dairy products.
  • The more concentrated (strained) a style of yogurt is, the costlier it will be because it contains more milk and less water.

    Check out our Yogurt Glossary for much more on the different types of yogurt.



    Siggi’s coconut yogurt topped with toasted coconut and pumpkin seeds from the pantry. Photo courtesy Siggi’s Dairy.



    In addition to its much thicker body, Siggi’s flavors have far less sugar. Mainstream flavored yogurts can have up to 25 grams of sugar per serving. Siggi’s varieties have 9-11 grams, resulting in 10-20 calories less than brands like Chobani and FAGE. While that doesn’t mean a lot for one portion, for frequent yogurt eaters it adds up.

    The products are made with rBST-free milk that comes from family farms in New York State and Wisconsin, and are sweetened with fruit and a touch of agave nectar or cane sugar, instead of fruit preserves. The result is a more elegant flavor

  • Blueberry
  • Mixed Berries & Açai
  • Orange & Ginger
  • Peach
  • Plain
  • Pomegranate & Passion Fruit
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry
  • Vanilla

  • Coconut
  • Mango & Jalapeño
  • Plain
  • Pumpkin & Spice
  • Vanilla
    The company also makes squeezable yogurt tubes in Raspberry and Strawberry, and filmjölk—Swedish-style drinkable yogurt—in Plain, Raspberry, Strawberry and Vanilla.

    The brand is all natural, certified gluten-free and certified kosher by OU.

    Siggi’s is eco-friendly. The front of the label tells you the grams of sugar, protein and calories. The label itself is paper, and can be easily detached ffrom the plastic carton for separate recycling.

    For a store locator visit


    For a yogurt lover, pick up one or two containers of each flavor and tuck them into an Easter basket or a nice serving bowl.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Poached Eggs On Vegetables


    Poached eggs atop a medley of sautéed vegetables. Photo courtesy Ellary’s Greens | NYC.


    When was the last time a plate of poached eggs looked this tempting?

    On the brunch menu at Ellary’s Greens in New York City, the chef changes vegetables with the seasons and uses them as a base for poached eggs.

    If your thoughts are with weekend brunch or what to serve for Mother’s Day breakfast, adapt this idea from Chef Kurt Alexander.

    The photo shows more of a winter palate, with Brussels sprouts, fingerling potatoes, pattypan squash and sunchoke purée, garnished with fresh dill. You can switch these out for spring vegetables.

    We went to our farmers’ market and came back with asparagus (green, purple and white!), cardoons, fiddlehead ferns, garlic scapes, morel mushrooms and ramps—a veritable spring feast.

    At any supermarket, you can find broccoli, fennel, pea pods, snow peas, spring peas, Swiss chard and Vidalia onions—and maybe some fava beans or lima beans plus some halved grape tomatoes for color.


    If you do hit the farmers market, bring back farm-fresh eggs. You’ll marvel at how much better they taste than factory-farm eggs that can be in storage for a while before they hit the supermarket shelf.

    We steamed our vegetables and then tossed them in parsley butter with lemon, known in French cuisine as beurre à la maître d’hôtel.

    1. FILL a large, deep saucepan with 2 inches of water. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium.

    2. BREAK 1 egg into small dish. Carefully slide the egg into the simmering water (bubbles should begin to break the surface of the water). Repeat with the remaining eggs. Poach the eggs for 3 to 5 minutes or until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken.

    3. CAREFULLY REMOVE the eggs with slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels.

    If you’re not adept at poaching eggs, get an egg poacher insert. The uniform roundness it creates isn’t as eye-pleasing as a naturally-poached egg, but it beats the frustration of trying to harness meandering egg whites until you perfect the technique.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Raw Milk Cheese

    Today is Raw Milk Appreciation Day.

    Raw milk, another term for unpasteurized milk, is used for drinking and making cheeses. When milk is pasteurized (heated to more than 100°F/40°C), hundreds of varieties of beneficial bacteria are killed along with the potentially harmful ones.

    If left alive, those good bacteria interact with the milk to provide significantly more complexity and depth of flavor to the cheese.

    That’s why many connoisseurs prefer raw milk cheeses.

    Due to rare but potential illness from unpasteurized milk, the FDA restricts the distribution of raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days*; although raw milk cheeses are readily available in Europe.

    So you can buy raw milk cheese in the U.S., just not fresh ones (for example, no fresh goat cheese or Camembert). The restriction also applies to imported cheeses.

    Nor can retailers sell raw milk for drinking; although in its wisdom, the FDA allows consumers who visit farms bring their own containers to buy raw milk.†


    Despite modern sanitation, there are still some questionable practices in industrialized dairying.



    This bloomy-rinded cheese from New York State is aged for 60 days, just enough to be legal in the U.S. It’s made by Vulto Creamery in Walton, New york. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

    Raw milk may still harbor a host of disease-causing organisms (pathogens), including E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus. A small number Americans become ill each year from raw milk-related causes; in the past, there have been periodic related fatalities in Europe.

    How did mankind survive thousands of years of eating unaged raw milk cheeses?

    They did it before the scourge of food industrialization. With the shift from farm to factory, there was an increase in foodborne pathogens.

    In industrialized production, cows are crammed into feedlots (rather than those that graze in meadows) have a greater risk of carrying pathogens. Milk from different farms is delivered to a central processing facility. There is a much greater risk that one or more farms delivers contaminated milk.

    The U.S. government instituted policies to ensure that the milk, cheese and other dairy products were not harmful to human health by insisting on pasteurization for drinking milk and young cheeses.

    Many of today’s small farmers feel that fresh milk from healthy animals, handled in a responsible manner and used immediately, does not require pasteurization. They drink their own milk raw, because it is far more flavorful.

    As with other foods involving potential rare pathogens—Caesar salad, mousse (it’s made with raw eggs and not cooked), steak tartare, sushi and so forth, the decision to drink raw milk or eat raw milk cheese is a personal one. As outbreaks of E.coli from meat and vegetables prove, many “legal” foods are unsafe.



    Raw milk Bayley Hazen, aged three months, is one of America’s favorite connoisseur blue cheeses. It’s made at the Cellar at Jasper Hills in Vermont. Photo courtesy Jasper Hill.



    Head to a cheese store or a market with a good cheese department, and buy a selection of raw milk cheeses. They’re often not marked, so you may need a cheese specialist to point them out.

    Enjoy a cheese plate for lunch—with fruits, nuts, breads or crackers and a salad on the side—or after your main dinner course, instead of dessert.

    Have wine or beer with your cheese plate. After all, it’s a celebration!

    *The 60-days rule was established in 1949, with questionable scientific evidence. It posited that within 60 days, the the acid and salt in cheese would kill the harmful bacteria. But there have been outbreaks of pathogens in both raw and pasteurized cheeses.

    †It is illegal to distribute raw milk in the U.S., but the law allows consumers to go to a farm with their own containers and purchase raw milk. This is essentially ludicrous, as many who would buy it cannot get to the farms; and any containers brought from home will not be as clean as new ones used by farmers.




    RECIPE: Pimento Cheese Ball With Pecans

    It’s National Cheese Ball Day. Here’s a classic recipe to whip up and serve with wine or cocktails. The cheese ball serves 5-8 people.

    The recipe is from Taylor Takes a Taste for



  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces pimentos, drained and chopped
  • 3 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard


    Pimento cheese ball with pecans. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.



    1. MELT the butter in a non-stick skillet. Add the pecans and toast until fragrant, but not burned. Remove from the heat and toss in the salt. Allow to cool, then chop into medium to small pieces. Set aside.

    2. PLACE the remaining ingredients into a large bowl. With a fork, mix until creamy. Chill for 1 hour.

    3. LAY about 12 inches of plastic wrap on a level surface. Scoop out the chilled pimento cheese and form into a ball on top of plastic wrap. Roll the cheese ball in the chopped pecans, making sure the entire surface of ball is covered.

    4. WRAP the ball tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. Before serving, allow the frozen ball to thaw for half an hour. Serve with your favorite crackers, chips or pretzels.



    FOOD FUN: Cheese Wedding Cake

    The jury is out on wedding cakes. They’re a long-standing tradition, but how many people actually look forward to eating that slice of cake?

    Many people we know would prefer a cheese plate for dessert. And surprise: In the U.K., cheese wheels layered like a wedding cake are gaining traction. Why not bring the tradition to the U.S.?

    You can have a cheese wedding cake as a replacement for a classic wedding cake or in addition to it.

    Here are instructions to build your own, from Andy Swinscoe of The Courtyard Dairy in North Yorkshire, England. Andy was the World Cheese Awards 2013 Cheesemonger of The Year.

    Here’s a gallery of gorgeous cheese wedding cakes on his website.


    A cheese wedding cake. Photo courtesy The Court Dairy.




    RECIPE: Grilled Cheese Benedict


    A yummy mash-up of Eggs Benedict and grilled cheese. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk
    Marketing Board.


    April is National Grilled Cheese Month. There are got lots of grilled cheese recipes on, but here’s something new: a mash-up of a grilled cheese sandwich with Eggs Benedict.

    The recipe is from the Grilled Cheese Academy, which has dozens of amazing grilled cheese sandwich recipes made with Wisconsin cheese.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slices Canadian bacon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 English muffins, split
  • 4 tablespoons Sharp Cheddar cheese spread, at room
  • 4 slices Gouda cheese
  • 4 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Optional garnish: minced chives
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT 3-4 quarts water to just below the boiling point. Add the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Gently stir the water and lower the heat so water is simmering.

    2. CRACK the eggs into the water one at a time and poach gently for 4-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and season with salt and pepper to taste. As the eggs cook…

    3. HEAT a griddle or skillet over medium heat and fry the Canadian bacon until lightly browned. Remove from the griddle and set the bacon aside.

    4. ADD 1 tablespoon of butter to skillet. Spread the cut side of each English muffin’s bottom half with 1 tablespoon Sharp Cheddar cheese spread. Place in the heated skillet and top each half with 1 slice Gouda, about 1 ounce spinach, 2 slices Canadian bacon and 1 slice tomato.

    5. COOK over medium heat until the cheese is melted. Remove to a plate and top each with a poached egg. Serve open-faced with remaining muffin halves, toasted and buttered, on the side.



    TIP OF THE DAY: The Joy Of Cheddar

    We love cheese, but cheese doesn’t love us. After a lifetime of eating it three times a day, we developed lactose intolerance—no cause and effect, just one of those things that can happen when the bloom of youth fades away.

    Depending on how lactose intolerant you are, you can eat aged cheeses. The older the cheese, the more the lactose has dissipated, to just 2%, depending on the cheese. But for the truly afflicted (including us), that’s 2% too much*.

    The only cheese that is naturally lactose-free is Cheddar. Through the process of cheddaring†, the last bit of lactose is consumed in production. We can eat it to our heart’s delight.

    We always liked Cheddar, but our cheese passions lay elsewhere: blues, chèvres, double- and triple-crèmes. So we went on a Cheddar safari, first trying the dozen different Cheddars in the cheese case at Trader Joe’s.

    These included plain Cheddars—mild, sharp and extra-sharp—and flavored Cheddars, variously blended with bacon, chive, horseradish, jalapeño, onion, scallion, wasabi, wine/spirits and other inclusions. There’s also goat Cheddar.

    The king of flavored Cheddars, which we discovered elsewhere, seems to be Yancy’s Fancy of New York State, which makes some 24 flavored Cheddars, including Buffalo Wing, Grilled Bacon Cheeseburger, Pepperoni and Strawberry. One day, we’ll gather them all and have a heck of a tasting party.



    iGourmet sells this delicious Cheddar with caramelized onions, also known as Abbot’s Gold. It’s made by Wensleydale Creamery in the U.K. Photo courtesy iGourmet.


    *Thanks to Erin Berardinelli, who wrote to tell us of mold allergy, a condition that can generate a bad reaction to the aged cheeses—as “young” as three months. If you’re reacting badly to aged cheeses but not to other dairy, have it checked out.

    †Cheddaring is an additional step unique to the production of Cheddar cheese. After heating, the curd is kneaded with salt, cut into cubes to drain the whey and then stacked and turned.


    After weeks of tasting the world of Cheddar—from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S. and the U.K.—favorites emerged.

    But our passion of the moment is the flavored English Cheddar With Caramelized Onions, imported by Trader Joe’s. Rich and creamy, full-bodied and redolent of the most delightful caramelized onion sweetness, it is addictive—one of those foods we call “love at first bite.”

    Trader Joe doesn’t disclose which Dorset producer makes this full-bodied farmhouse Cheddar, but it’s a “famed farm” with “more than 40 years of traditional cheese making experience.”

    The addition of caramelized onions was inspired by a classical British ploughman’s lunch pairing—cheese and chutney. The cheesemakers mixed caramelized onion marmalade into the Cheddar. The marmalade itself is made with cane sugar, cider vinegar, red currant juice, lemon juice, clove, cinnamon, sugar, ginger and olive oil.

    The result is a balanced sweet-savory flavor with honeyed notes and a pleasing onion aroma. The marmalade makes it a bit crumbly, like a mature Cheddar.



    Our new passion: Cheddar with caramelized onions. Photo courtesy Trader Joe’s.



    Every Cheddar fan has a favorite use, often on on burgers and sandwiches, including grilled cheese.

    Ours is as a snack or a light meal with with a Honeycrisp apple or other fruit, or a slice or two of Dave’s Killer Bread.

    Given the amount of Cheddar we had on hand, we also shredded it atop casseroles, chilis and soups; made fondue and cheese sauce; served lots of cheese plates to visitors; and had it for dessert with a piece of apple pie.

    We also made Cheddar pizzas, variously with apple, meatball and vegetable toppings. We made Cheddar soup and cauliflower Cheddar soup. And we stuffed shredded Cheddar into grilled portabello mushroom caps, then returned them to the broiler to melt.


    Cheddar has been called the “cheese of kings.” Records show that in 1170, King Henry II declared Cheddar the best cheese in England, and purchased more than five tons of it. His son, Prince John, who became king in 1199, purchased a similar quantity in 1184. U.S. President Andrew Jackson (in office In 1829-1837) once held an open house party at the White House at which he served a 1,400-pound block of Cheddar.

    Cheddar is a hard, sharp cheese, with a paste that ranges from off-white to pale yellow to deep orange, depending on the amount of annatto added (more about that in a minute). Originating in the Somerset County village of Cheddar in southwest England, it is the most popular type of cheese in the U.K. and accounts for more than half of English cheese production.

    The cheese is now made worldwide, and only one producer remains in the village of Cheddar itself. The name is not protected‡ under the EU Protected Food Names program; so cheese made anywhere can be called Cheddar. However:

  • West Country Farmhouse Cheddar has a PDO (Protected domain of Origin) that covers Cheddars made in the traditional manner (raw milk, calf rennet and a cloth wrapping) in the southwest England counties of Somerset, Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset.
  • Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar gained PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status.
    The rich, nutty flavor notes become increasingly sharp with age. The smooth, firm texture of young Cheddar becomes more granular and crumbly with age.

    According to Widmer Cheese, a major U.S. producer of fine Cheddar, prior to 1850 nearly all the cheese produced in the U.S. was Cheddar. Cheddar production in Wisconsin, the leader in U.S. Cheddar production, began in the mid 1800s.

    A yellow food coloring (annatto) was originally added to distinguish where the Cheddar was made. In the U.S., Cheddars made in the New England states traditionally retaining the natural white color. There is no difference in flavor as a result of added coloring.

    Aging is the only difference between mild and sharp Cheddar. The longer cheese is aged naturally, the sharper and more pronounced the Cheddar flavor becomes.

  • Mild Cheddar is generally aged for 2 to 3 months.
  • Extra sharp Cheddar can be aged for as long as a year.
  • Cheddars in the U.S. with names such as “private stock” or “reserved” are aged for 15 months or longer.
  • In the U.K., “vintage” refers to a strong, extra-mature Cheddar aged for 16 months. In the U.S., Cabot’s Vintage Choice is aged for at least 2 years.
  • You can find Cheddars aged up to 10 years. We’ve never had one, but they’re supposed to be magnificent. The price is about double, to pay for the extra years of storage and tied-up cash.
    Here’s a more substantial history of Cheddar.

    ‡Protected Designation Of Origin, or PDO, is a trademark issued by the European Union that guarantees that a product is produced, prepared and processed in a designated geographical area, according to specified practices. There is also Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), which guarantees geographical area only. Both designations provide legal protection against imitators, and both can use an EU logo of authenticity on their packaging. Purchasing a PDO product guarantees a consistent product experience and an established standard of excellence; the PGI designation guarantees it comes from the its area of origin (Scotch Whisky, for example, is a PGI). But it seems that there is no guild of Cheddar producers to do the same for all U.K. Cheddars.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Green Bean Casserole


    A green bean casserole smothered with
    delicious Comté cheese. Photo courtesy
    Comté USA.


    In our mother’s day, green bean casserole was a popular family dish. We can’t remember the last decade we saw one, either at home or on a restaurant menu.

    So St. Patrick’s Day, coming up on March 17th, seems like the time to try a good recipe and put more green on the table.

    This recipe was shared with us by Comté USA, the American bureau for France’s popular Comté cheese. Also called Gruyère de Comté, it has a much milder flavor than the Swiss Gruyère, aged for only three months compared to 8 months with Swiss Gruyère.

    How popular is it? Comté has the highest production of all French AOC cheeses: around 40,000 tonnes* annually.

    Dating back to the 12th century, Comté is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. Here’s some fun cheese trivia: Comté is made only during the summer months, in huge wheels. In the fall, milk from the same cows is used to make Vacherin Mont d’Or, a small, creamy cheese that couldn’t be more different.

    If you want to focus on Irish ingredients, look for a Gruyere-style Irish cheese like Glebe Brethan.

    *In American English, a ton is a unit of measurement equaling 2,000 pounds. In Europe and elsewhere, a tonne equals 2,240 pounds (1000 kg). Don’t assume it’s the same measurement with a different spelling!

    This is a sophisticated version of a classic green bean casserole. No condensed cream of mushroom soup, no canned French-fried onions!


  • ½ pound shallots (about 6 whole), peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 10 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms†, sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4-ounces Comté, shredded (2 scant cups shredded)
    †Cremini/crimini mushrooms are baby portabello/portobello mushrooms, often marketed as Baby Bellas. Check out the different types of mushrooms in our Mushroom Glossary.



    1. LINE a large plate with paper towels. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer and lightly smoke. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until light golden brown, about 7-9 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to the paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.

    3. BRING a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender, 4-5 minutes. While the beans cook, fill a large bowl with ice water. Drain the beans and immediately plunge them into the ice water to stop cooking. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel to dry.

    4. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and toss. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and the minced garlic; cook 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Whisk in the broth and milk and bring to a simmer. Cook 5-6 minutes, or until thickened.



    Comté cheese. Photo courtesy Comte USA.

    5. TURN off the heat and add half of the shredded Comté, along with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir until the cheese is melted. Add the green beans and stir to coat.

    6. TRANSFER the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining Comté over the top. Bake 10 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle the fried shallots over the gratin. Serve warm.



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