“Washed rind” is used to describe those cheeses that are surface-ripened by washing the cheese throughout the ripening/aging process with brine, beer, wine, brandy, or a mixture of ingredients, which encourages the growth of bacteria. The exterior rind of washed rind cheeses may vary from bright orange to brown, with flavor and aroma profiles that are quite pungent, yet the interior of these cheeses is most often semi-soft and, sometimes, very creamy. Washed rind cheeses may be made from both pasteurized and raw milk, depending on the style of the cheese and the cheesemaker producing them.
“Natural rind” cheeses have rinds that are self-formed during the aging process. Generally, no molds or microflora are added, nor is washing used to create the exterior rinds, and those that do exhibit molds and microflora in their rinds get them naturally from the environment. Because most natural rind cheeses are aged for many weeks, to develop their flavor as well as the rinds, many natural rind cheeses are made from raw milk. Many “tomme” style cheeses fall into this category.
“Bloomy Rind” cheeses are surface ripened. This means that the surrounding fluffy white mold encourages the proper ripening of the interior paste of the cheese. During the cheese making process, the outside of the cheese is coated with Penicillium candidum, which is a specific mold culture that forms into a “bloomy” edible crust. As the flavor-producing candidum mold begins to break down, a creaminess spreads throughout the interior of the cheese, giving it an optimal flavor and smooth texture.
The cheddaring process takes a long time. When the curds are separated from the whey they are cut. This step of cutting the curds is used when making almost all types of cheese, but it is taken one step further for cheddar cheese. To make cheddar, the curds are cut up and then pressed together into slabs. The slabs of curds are stacked on top of each other. This can be repeated several times. The more liquid that drains from the curds, the firmer the resulting cheese will be. Then the curds are finally put through a mill to chop up the stacks and create the curds that will be pressed into molds. From there, wheels of cheddar are typically aged. In Canada cheddar can be aged up to 20 years and with that aging comes a price. Cheddar can be round, squared, waxed, bound in cloth, infused and in large and weighty.
The largest cheese prior to the 20th century was a 22,000-pound cheddar made in Perth, Ontario, for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A even larger cheese—more than 34,000 pounds and 14 feet across—was made for the Wisconsin Pavilion at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York. The current record holder is a 56,850-pound cheddar made in Oregon by the Federation of American Cheese-makers in 1989. In fall of 1995, a Quebec, Canada cheesemaker produced a behemoth 57,518-pound cheddar cheese.