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After Aging 15 Years, America's Oldest Cheddar Goes on Sale

After Aging 15 Years, America's Oldest Cheddar Goes on Sale

Karen Herzog | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

What may be the oldest and priciest cheddar in America was released Friday by a world champion Mineral Point cheese maker, just in time for holiday entertaining and gift-giving.

It’s the single malt scotch of cheddar.

Hook’s 15-year-old cheddar, which made its debut Friday at Larry’s Market in Brown Deer for $50 a pound, will be available in tony Beverly Hills starting next week.

Older cheddars may exist, but if they do, they’re the stuff of private stashes in cheese maker cellars – not available to the general public, said John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, which hosts national and world cheese competitions.

“I don’t think there’s any cheddar out there older than this one that you can actually buy,” Umhoefer said. “Fifteen years is a good stretch of time to hold a cheddar – perhaps as long as a cheddar can hold for most people’s palates. Making a cheddar that ripe, without it turning bitter or acidic, is a rare skill.”

Julie and Tony Hook are proven cheese makers; a Colby made by Julie Hook was crowned best cheese in the world at the World Cheese Championship in 1982.

The Hooks kept 1,200 pounds of cheddar in airtight plastic at 38 degrees for 15 years, checking a sample block twice a year to see how it was progressing.

“I knew this was something I could put away for 10 to 12 years,” Tony Hook said. “But it was still excellent at 12 years, so we kept aging it and tasting it. Most people aren’t in the business of investing their money that long in cheese.”

The couple may try aging a 40-pound block for 20 years to meet a growing demand for aged cheddar.