Sunday, December 6, 2009

15 Year Old Cheese - now on sale

We turn our attention to the oldest cheese available to the public.
It's 15 years old, it's $50 a pound, and it's cheddar.
During the past 15 years, more than 1,000 pounds of cheese sat wrapped in plastic in a cooler set at 38 degrees in the Hook's cheese factory, just waiting for it's debute.
“It’s very unusual to keep a cheese that long,” said Mark Johnson of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research. “The oldest I’ve seen commonly is six to eight years. Fifteen-year cheeses, those are pretty rare.”
The Hooks’ factory is open to the public just one day a week -- on Friday.
The cheese will be for sale there on Friday and at the Dane County Farmers’ Market at Monona Terrace on Saturday. It will sell for $35.95 a pound, $50.00 a pound at specialty shops.
“It’s like a good Scotch, the people that like it and know it are willing to pay the price,” said Ken Monteleone, owner of Fromagination, which will sell the cheese.
“We get people who say, ‘Why is it so expensive?’” Monteleone said, “and we say, ‘If you put your money in the bank 15 years ago, what kind of return would you expect?’ That kind of shuts them up.”

The Hooks will sell 1,200 pounds of the 15-year cheddar in this first batch.
Another batch will be available in three months; Hook declined to say how big that batch will be.
He also couldn’t say just how old he’d go with his cheeses.
“I’d like to hold a block or two to 20 years, but if everything sells out, I might not be able to,” he said. “I might hide one, though. Who knows?”

But how does it taste?
"It's smooth, it isn't bitter, it doesn't have an off flavor. It doesn't have an acidic bite like a three-year.
It's very flavorful," Hook said. "It's got a lot more cheddar flavor."
Hook recommends pairing the cheddar with wine and a good cracker or bread.

One guy bought the cheese because he loves art..
"Cheese making is an art form," Brian Morello, who bought a 3/4-pound hunk of the vintage cheddar at Larry's Market in Milwaukee, told the Journal Sentinel. "I consider my purchase to be a form of cheese philanthropy. For $50, I supported the arts and got a great piece of cheese."