Cheddar may be the world’s most popular cheese, but we hardly know it. The original renditions from Somerset County, England (where the name cheddar unfortunately was never legally protected) aren’t orange. And most don’t even have quite the piquant tang we associate with “sharpness” in even the best American renditions from Vermont (try clothbound Cabot, Grafton, and Shelburne Farms), veering instead toward earthy, nutty, and deeply complex layers of fruitiness, spice, acidity, and grassy sweetness. In fact, the British tradition of farmstead raw-milk cheddar is still alive and well, thanks to the advocacy of Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. And one of its prime American showplaces, Di Bruno Bros., has assembled a collection of exceptional examples that show the full range of British cheddar greatness on sale through Oct. 8. That’s good, as the steep price of these cheddars, ranging from $30 to $40 a pound, is one prime reason they’re not better known. But the nature of this promotion, which offers $5 off a pound with the ability to mix and match smaller wedges from other producers, should encourage people to taste why they’re worth the price. I’ve long been a fan of Montgomery’s as the standard-bearer. But it was fascinating to taste subtle differences among them all — a distinctive finish of horseradish on the Keen’s; the Swissy edge of a Gruyère starter culture used for Lincolnshire Poacher; the deep richness and pop of flavor crystals in the Welsh-made Hafod; the fruity sweetness of spent whiskey mash used to feed the cows for Isle of Mull; and the soft gray veining in a wedge of my new favorite, Westcombe, that tasted like cellar mist.
– Craig LaBan
Traditional cheddars of England, from $29.99 to $39.99 a pound ($5 off a pound or more until Oct. 8), all Di Bruno Bros. locations except Comcast Center.