For my Di Bruno Bros. column this week, I write about Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, a beautiful mummy of a cheese from Vermont. It's bandaged in cloth and "larded," then cave-aged -- like an Egyptian pharaoh. Whenever I eat clothbound cheddar, my mind flashes to the mummified cats on display at the Penn Museum.
Sorry, that's a bit ghoulish, but I do find it fascinating that cheesemakers adopted this method of preservation to create wildly flavorful cheeses. This one smells like the woods and tastes like a thousand things. If you want to read about it and try a little clothbound cheddar tasting (highly advised around Halloween), you'll find all the info over on the Di Bruno Blog, where I post twice a month to earn my cheese allowance.
If you're a cheddar head with lofty aspirations of understanding this tricksy style of cheesemaking, check out The Cheese Chronicles, by Liz Thorpe. She writes beautifully and thoughtfully about cheddar in her chapter on "The Amish: Seeking the Roots of American Cheese" (pp. 90-123). I reread it over a nibble of Cabot Clothbound, and as always I fell under Thorpe's spell. She talks about cheddar the way some people talk about craft beer -- with reverence, pop, and understanding.
If you want more juicy backstory about Cabot Creamery and how Vermont became a cheese mecca, listen to Ann Saxelby's interview with Paul Kindstedt on "Cutting the Curd," a Brooklyn radio show all about cheese. Kinstedt has trained many American cheesemakers and is a sort of Gandalf figure in the American farmstead cheese movement. His take on the Vermont cheese scene is fascinating, and you'll enjoy Ann Saxelby's gently probing Midwestern twang.