Eating Cheese With a Fork: South Mountain Creamery's extra-sharp cheddar deserves careful consideration

Partially due to strict regulations limiting cheesemakers from conjuring culinary feats from raw milk, Maryland is home to too few creameries. Though two dozen have popped up in the last decade, it's still hard to find a variety of local cheeses at shops and grocery stores. A few local farms, however, make their way into Baltimore's farmers markets.

Recently, we visited South Mountain Creamery's booth at the Waverly Farmers Market, where the family dairy farm sells glass-bottled milk, various flavors of yogurt and cream cheese, meat products, and several staple cheeses. Located west of Frederick in Middletown, Maryland, South Mountain Creamery actually delivers its products to homes in Baltimore, while maintaining a presence at various markets. We picked up a big block of its extra-sharp cheddar ($9.99 per pound), cooked about half of it into buttermilk biscuits, and saved the rest for our snacking needs.

Cheddar might be the American standard, but that doesn't make it basic. It deserves the same reverence as the expensive, odorous specimens with unpronounceable names you might find on a cheese board at your much wealthier and hipper friend's wine-tasting party. Too often cheddar is skipped over by stuffy cheese-plate curators and is reserved as a topping or sandwich layer (or to flavor biscuits, which were very good by the way), but we say give it the isolation it deserves.

South Mountain's extra sharp is worthy of careful, thoughtful munching. The firm cheese exemplifies the salty caramel flavors that naturally attract American eaters, along with a gentle kick of horseradish that makes itself known at first whiff. "Extra sharp" seems like a bit of a stretch for this cheese, but that's coming from a fan of gut-punching stinkers. We expect South Mountain's pricier 7 Year Aged Reserve Cheddar would more likely meet our definition of "extra sharp," but the relative mildness of this cheddar is, in this case, not such a bad thing: We're able to focus more on the delicate notes that might be ignored in a spicier or more acidic cheese. This cheddar brings back memories; it's like rewatching your favorite childhood cartoon and realizing how beautifully fucked up and emotionally weighted it was, and how much more it resonates with you now. This species of cheese is so much more than the cracker topping we had stuffed into our lunchbox along with Lunchables and Gatorade; it's the cheese of our past, present, and future.

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