This month in Farm-to-School, the students explored the importance of dairy in Vermont’s agricultural landscape. There are over 900 dairy farms in the state of Vermont, milking not only cows, but sheep and goats too. The students sampled a variety of cheddar cheeses from Cabot Creamery and Shelburne Farms, and although they were all the same kind of cheese, we learned that the different tastes developed in cheese come from a myriad of factors including what the animals ate, what breed it came from, and how long it was aged for.
We learned that the original cheddar cheese from Somerset, England was produced from cows with a diet rich in a nutrient called, beta-carotene (the same nutrient that gives carrots and sweet potatoes their color), and therefore the cheese was slightly orange. This color became synonymous with quality and so cheese makers around the world began adding artificial orange coloring to make their cheeses more marketable! Here in Vermont though, most of our cheddar is white because we don’t use as many additives. The more you know, right?
The students also learned that aging cheeses, makes their tastes more pronounced, when they had to guess the order that Cabot’s cheddar cheeses were aged for. For your reference next time you’re at the grocery store, the Sharp Cheddar is aged 9 months, the Extra Sharp 12 months, and the Seriously Sharp is aged 14 months- all long enoughto break down lactose, the sugar in dairy.