One of the most popular cheeses in the United States is cheddar and when you look around, you will notice several different varieties available, most of them involving varying degrees of sharpness. A sharper cheese tends to be older so if you are looking for older cheddars, you want to find extra sharp or the sharpest option available to you. Although most cheddar is only aged a few years at the most, it is sometimes aged much longer, whether on purpose or by accident, and this changes the flavor slightly.
Before knowing how old the longest aged cheddar was, it is important to know what happens to cheddar as it ages. We already mentioned that it gets sharper but not everyone has a good understanding of what exactly this means. As the cheese ages, bacteria are able to produce more enzymes that will in turn break down the fats and proteins in the cheese. This in turn tends to give the cheese a taste that is nuttier and even a bit beefy. The important thing to remember, however, is that aging cheddar is not an exact science and therefore not all older cheddars will taste the same; it depends on how well they were prepared and a little bit of luck, but the experts are able to produce consistent results.
Standard Aging Classifications
Simply knowing that cheddar which has aged for longer is sharper is not enough to truly understand what the longest aged cheddar means. Instead you need a relative time frame so you can more easily compare what aged cheddar would be like in terms of sharpness in flavor. Most of the time, if you have mild cheddar it will have been aged for two to three months. Sharp cheddars have been aged a bit longer, usually around a year. If you love extra sharp cheddar cheese, then you probably prefer ones that have been aged for about a year and a half.
There are, however, plenty of places where you can get older cheddar cheese. Sellers who specialize in cheese will generally have a larger variety. Some will sell cheddar that has been aged for five or six years while others will go up to seven years. The longest aged cheddar you are likely to find from a specialty seller is about 10 years old and even that can be difficult because very few people like the taste as it is so strong.
Despite the fact that most people prefer their cheddar to be aged for a year and a half or less, there was recently some cheddar that was 40 years old. This was not intentional however; it was a lucky accident. Ed Zahn had made the cheese years ago when he was still working in an old cheese manufacturer in Oconto, Wisconsin and when he went back in 2012 he found this batch in the back of a cooler. Some people said that this cheese was so old it was barely edible due to the sharp flavor but it was such a rarity to find a cheddar aged for so long that it sold out quickly.