When you’re craving a fully flavoured cheddar, your best bet will be a cheddar aged two years or more. Fortunately, there are many excellent Canadian cheddars in the three- to five-year range.
But don’t overlook younger cheddars. They can be quite tasty, and they melt like crazy when you’re cooking or grilling. I have been reminded of these truths in cheese by the lovely Balderson Marble Cheddar.
It’s only aged about six months, like a medium cheddar, so the flavour profile is definitely understated and mild, but it makes for a very tasty snacking cheese, especially after it comes to room temperature. A mixture of white and coloured cheese curds give it a marbled appearance.
But Balderson Marble Cheddar really shines in a grilled cheese sandwich or cheese toastie. At our house, we have a preference for caraway rye bread generously buttered to make grilled-cheese sammies. As we have reported earlier, we love the smell and the taste of ooey gooey.
The nice thing about a mass-produced cheese like Balderson Marble Cheddar is that it’s generally available in supermarkets everywhere and often at a good price. We purchased ours at $5.99 for a 280-gram block which works out to about $20 per kilo which is a great price for a fine cheese made without additives or modified milk ingredients. Like, it’s real cheese!
Balderson cheddars were first made 142 years ago, making it one of Canada’s oldest cheddars. In 1881, dairy farmers in Lanark County, near Perth in Eastern Ontario, had a bright idea. They decided to form a dairy collective, pool their excess milk production and build a factory to produce a cheddar cheese.
They built a small, wood-frame building at a crossroads known locally as Balderson Corners. The dusty junction was named after John Balderson, a retired sergeant from the British army who was among the first homesteaders in the area in the 1860s.
The Balderson Corners Cheese Factory is no more but there still is a cheese shop at the junction.
Production of Balderson cheddars now takes place a bit farther east, in Winchester, in the township of North Dundas, 45 kilometres south of downtown Ottawa, in Canada’s largest cheese plant.
Ownership of Balderson now is in the hands of Lactalis Canada. Lactalis is a French multinational dairy products corporation, owned by the Besnier family and based in Laval, Mayenne, France. Lactalis is the largest dairy products group in the world.
In addition to Balderson, Lactalis Canada owns iconic brands such as Cracker Barrel, Black Diamond, Astro, IÖGO, Lactantia, Beatrice and Président. Named on Forbes list of Canada’s Best Employers, Lactalis Canada directly employs 4,000+ Canadians and has more than 30 operating sites across the country.
A far cry from 1881 when a handful of men working in a small building at Balderson Corners started making cheddar, but you have believe the spirit of those early years still is reflected in the smooth flavour of Balderson Marble Cheddar.
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Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on his adventures at On the Road, Across the Sea on Substack.