Welcome back to CODY'S WORLD OF CHEESE, where our resident cheesemonger Cody Reiss explains what funky fromages you should definitely be eating.
You may be able to tell from my soft and squishy physique that I was raised on Cheddar (thanks, Mom). Its fat, tangerine-hued, “extra-sharp” bricks form the foundation of my cheese temple. Growing up, the omnipresent hunk in my fridge always had teeth marks where my brother and I had knobbled chunks straight off the block. It wasn’t until I was dosed with my first true Cheddar that the doors of perception were cleansed, and this sacred cheese appeared to me as it truly is: very dank, and nothing like the bendy bricks of my youth. As your humble cheese genius, allow me to guide you in the medicinal ceremony of Cheddar snarfage, and introduce you to this week’s brain-bending bliss bundle: Flory’s Truckle.
Cheddar originated in England in the 12th century. It is traditionally made with cow’s milk, aged for one to two years, and produced in large, clothbound, barrel-shaped wheels (also known as “truckles”). As the wheels age, enzymes break down fats and proteins in the milk, transforming the flavor of the cheese from mild and buttery to spicy, earthy, and (as it reaches stages of true self-actualization) the tart “sharpness” we all covet. The inside of these wheels is not orange (!), but a soft, pale yellow! The intense orange you find in modern, mass-produced Cheddars (and many other cheeses) actually comes from the addition of dyes—in most cases, annatto.
Each fat cylinder is aged the way I would one day like to be buried—like a tangy mummy: wrapped in cloth, slathered in lard, and then put in a big cave alongside a bunch of its homies.
Indeed present-day Cheddar is in many ways near-unrecognizable from its original incarnation. Tragically, in the 19th century, Cheddar sold its soul to the devil: industrialization. It lost its earthy rind, got addicted to bad drugs, and spawned hellish offspring bearing its hallowed name: powdered cheese, Cheez-Its, Goldfish... the list goes on and on. Luckily, cheesemakers of today are trying to save its soul. Enter: Flory’s Truckle.
Flory’s Truckle is a raw cow’s milk Cheddar made in Missouri and aged in Iowa (I, too, have curds in different area codes). Like its British ancestors, it comes in big barrel-shaped wheels that have been matured for around a year. Each fat cylinder is aged the way I would one day like to be buried—like a tangy mummy: wrapped in cloth, slathered in lard, and then put in a big cave alongside a bunch of its homies.
Since you likely don’t have a slice of this tangy beaut in front of you, allow me to transport you: Before you stands a slab of dense, pale gold cheese wrapped tightly in a dusty grey cloth. It is run through with craggly, irregular nooks (and also crannies), and dotted with visible flavor crunchies scattered across its golden surface like blurry, distant stars. Flexed beneath your fingers, its body snaps, then flakes like a firm-fleshed fish, the newly awakened Cheddar chakra releasing a fruity spiciness reminiscent of pink peppercorns. Now ready to receive the sacred medicine, you pop a pursy piece into your plum pouch.
The first tastes bring an acidity so strong you can feel your salivary glands tingle and tighten beneath your ear, and you might find yourself puckering as if you’d just smashed a Warhead wrapped in sour straws.
As the first holy nugs crumble between your tightening chompers, they flatten, smoosh, and curve around the sides of your masticators, leaving creamy shmears to wick off with your tongue. The first tastes bring an acidity so strong you can feel your salivary glands tingle and tighten beneath your ear, and you might find yourself puckering as if you’d just smashed a Warhead wrapped in sour straws. Flavors then come at you fast: a pineapple pleasures a walnut; dried grass rains down on a childhood fruit cup. As these flavors zip in and out of your consciousness, the remainder of the cheese tumbles around your drying mouth. They melt and leave behind astral remnants of blessed nugglets that need more chew, and tiny, crystalline crunchies waiting to be cracked and popped underneath your wobbly cheese grinders. As your eyes roll back down into your skull and your ego slowly starts to reassemble itself, you’re left pondering the wonder of this cheese—how it hints both at the roasted nuttiness of an Alpine and the caramelized sweetness of an aged Gouda, all while being the sharpest damn cheese you’ve ever tasted.
Right now, your tongue is starting to come down—about ready to roll over in bed and light a tiny little tongue cigarette. Now would be a good time to reach for the cold, hazy IPA cracked in front of you, let the sunshine-y citrus and florality, the subtle bitterness mingle with the near tropical sweetness of what's left of the lingering flavors of true Cheddar. Perhaps you snack a couple of sweet fruits—pears, figs—or perhaps you reach for some brown bread, pickles, and mustard. Or, if you’re like me, you take bites straight from the wedge, desperately trying to chase a hit like your first.
Once your consciousness has fully returned and you have finished your wedge and recovered your pants, you’ll probably be getting excited about the idea of trying more sick Cheddars. For American, reach for Bleu Mont Bandaged Cheddar; for English, try Montgomery’s. If you want something sweeter, grab an aged Gouda; if you want something nuttier, grab an Alpine. If you want something spicier, grab a Pecorino or Parmesan.
If you want something sharper, eat a toothpick.
Cody Reiss is a comedian, cook, and former cheesemonger at Murray’s Cheese in New York City. He has made cheeses at home and on farms in Brazil and New York, and has traveled to more than 35 different countries, sampling over 350 different cheeses along the way. You can follow him on Instagram at @codyreiss.