Cheddar cheese is usually labeled according to its “sharpness.” Dr. Michael Tunick, author of “The Science of Cheese,” explains the reason for this flavor grading. Here is a transcript of the video.
So basically the level of sharpness is up to the cheese company. My name is Michael Tunick, I am a research chemist for the US Department of Agriculture.As cheese ages, the flavor increases.
As more and more of the bacteria that we use to make the cheese, and the coagulant that was also used to make it, break down the protein and the fat.
And as they do, you get more and more compounds forming and many of those impart flavor to the product.
So as the cheese seats around, you are going to be getting more flavorful cheese.
Also more textural breakdown and that means that a cheddar cheese becomes sharper and sharper, but so would a lot of other varieties that are meant to be aged for quite a period of time.
There is different sharpness levels on cheddar, depending on how long it’s been aged. So a mild cheddar is one that hasn’t been around for very long and then, as the months go by, they can start labeling it as sharp or medium sharp, extra sharp — things like that.
There isn’t a labeling requirement as to what level of sharpness you can call it, but it only seems to apply to cheddar cheese in the United States. The oldest cheddar that we know of, was discovered a couple years ago. It was found in a cooler that was being emptied out it dated back to the Nixon administration.
So there is this 40-year-old cheddar cheese. It was probably super sharp, but it was still edible.