An annatto-coloured cheddar from Wisconsin

My second US cheese is a four year old cheddar. FOUR? That’s very old for a cheddar, I think. I’m expecting something dense and dry and crumbly, and thick with crunchy lactic crystals. But this cheese is moist and soft. It’s also been coloured with annatto, and is a vivid orange colour. I grew up in Ireland, where cheese (and lemonade) come in red and white varieties, so this doesn’t bother me a jot. My cheese-eating chum, brought up on wholesome, un-frivolously-coloured English cheddar, is somewhat perturbed by the bright block we’re about to sample.

It’s not as intense as I expect it to be. It’s very sharp, tart and bitter – it reminds me of lemon pith – but there’s not much more to the taste than that. I’m spoiled, these days, and used to intense farmhouse cheddars, with pockets of different flavours – a new cheese in every bite! – and enough character that you can tell what the cow ate for breakfast that day. And, yes, a good whomph of manure. This cheese is uniform, and bland beneath the lemony sharpness. I think it’s spent its four years in some cold sealed sterile place.