Put your senses to the test! Can you detect a difference between two very similar foods? Try this fun experiment with a group of family and friends—the more the cheesier . . . we mean, merrier!
In this experiment, you and your family and friends will see if you can detect a difference between 2 very similar foods: mild cheddar cheese and extra-sharp cheddar cheese.
Choose 1 person to give out the cheeses (the cheesemonger). Everyone else will be tasters. Give each taster a small plate, a glass of water, and a blindfold.
Tasters should put their blindfolds on. The cheesemonger should place 2 slices of mild cheddar cheese on the left side of tasters’ plates and 2 slices of extra-sharp cheddar cheese on the right side of tasters’ plates.
Time to taste! Blindfolded tasters should pick up 1 piece of cheese at a time and taste it—taking small bites, chewing slowly, and breathing in and out through their noses. They should also take sips of water in between bites—this gives their tastebuds a break. (The cheesemonger can taste the cheeses, too!)
Once everyone has finished tasting, the cheesemonger should ask tasters if the cheeses tasted the same or different. Which cheese do tasters think was the mild cheddar—the left cheese on their plates or the right cheese?
Mild and extra-sharp cheddar cheese include the same ingredients and are made the same way—so why do they taste so different? The answer: TIME!
After cheddar cheese is formed into wheels or blocks, it spends some time aging—sitting in a climate-controlled room. Mild cheddar is just a baby—it’s usually aged for just two or three months. Extra-sharp cheddar is typically aged for a year or more.
During the aging process, two big things happen: (1) Water evaporates from the cheese and (2) friendly molecules called enzymes break down the cheese’s proteins and fat. These changes give extra-sharp cheddar a drier, more crumbly texture and a stronger, sharper flavor. Mild cheddar, on the other hand, has a moist, smooth texture and is less flavorful than extra-sharp cheddar. (But mild cheddar cheese is much better at melting than extra-sharp cheddar cheese!)
Fun Fact! You can also find sharp cheddar cheese, which is usually aged for six to 12 months. Its flavor and texture are somewhere in between mild and extra-sharp cheddar. It’s like the compromise of cheddars!