I have relatives on both sides of the family living in the United States who periodically send niceties from Hickory Farms: excellent hams (the sweetly smoky spiral-cut ones are particularly delish), summer sausages, and really good cheeses. And queen among these cheeses is one recent discovery: the smoked Cheddar.
This particular cheese comes in a small, narrow bar about the size and heft of a stick of butter (about 120 – 125 grams). The outside literally looks burnished with some serious caramelization of the lactose going on and it smells deliciously of bacon.
Tastewise, a single bite actually has several layers of flavor. The barbecue-like nuance of hickory smoke is the first thing that hits the tongue and one’s nostrils. This is followed by the typical sharpness of classic Cheddar tempered by the addition of mild, nutty Swiss cheese into the mix. The final flavor is the sweetness that lingers in one’s mouth: an almost caramel-like taste that I find most appealing.
While the smoked Cheddar is delicious enough on its own – indeed, I find myself slicing off a bit to nibble from time to time – it is an excellent partner for the sweet taste of raw almonds or with sliced apples and/or pears. Or, better yet, if you’ve quite an appetite, grab a slice of whole wheat bread, some butter, some finely chopped ham, and a good chunk of smoked Cheddar. Spread the butter over the bread, sprinkle the ham evenly over the buttered surface, then just as evenly grate the cheese over all. Pop into your toaster oven for about three minutes and voila! You have an utterly delectable little tartine to go with a London fog for the perfect afternoon nosh.