The next time you’re at the super market, head to the cheese aisle, pick up a block of cheddar, and take a look at the ingredient list. Relatively simple when compared to some of the other chemicals and preservatives in a lot of the more popular food brands, cheddar cheese only requires a few simple additions to keep it fresh for a longer time. However, the salt, the olive oil, and other ingredients that help to keep the cheese fresher for longer also alter the taste significantly, leaving purists asking, “what is cheddar really supposed to taste like?”
These days it is very rare to find the cheese commercially because of its neutral taste and short-lived shelf life, but Hoop Cheddar (or hoop cheese) is making a comeback in the kitchen and in the grocery shelves, especially at the more high-end retailers.
Hoop Cheese (also known as Bakers or Red Ring cheese) is a simple, traditional cheese made only from cow's milk, where the whey has been drained out completely and then placed in a round mold called a hoop. Some people call it as Red Ring cheese because of the red wax coating. Though sometimes compared to farmer's cheese, it is different because no cream or salt is added to the cheese. Since the cheese is not aged, the texture remains soft and it spoils very fast, making it best used in a restaurant.
Hoop cheese is milder than the cheddar cheese you buy at your supermarket, and has a rubbery texture when young. However, when it’s allowed to age, it becomes shard, crumbly and more decadent. Because of its mild taste and subtle notes, its an excellent cooking ingredient, giving a dish a rich and creamy texture without overpowering the flavor or making it stickier. Hoop cheese is used best on sandwiches, on macaroni or as suitable companion to crackers and fruit.