In order to produce Cabot’s award-winning cheddar, the farm families who own Cabot supply their master cheesemakers with exceptional quality milk. What separates cheddar from most of the world’s other manufactured goods is the extensive aging process, which can take months or even years. Knowing just how long to let a wheel age or the proper conditions necessary for optimal ripeness to occur is the domain of Craig Gile, Cabot’s master cheese grader.
Craig grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont, so he already had 12 years of dairy experience before his 18th birthday. He has spent 11 years with Cabot, filling numerous roles and functions within the cooperative, including his current position as master cheese grader.
His passion for cheese has been advanced by training and involvement with numerous cheese companies, organizations, and universities throughout the United States and Canada. He studied the art of cheesemaking at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Guelph. He teaches cheesemaking at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, and has served as an expert judge at the world’s largest cheese contest ever, the World Championship Cheese Contest.
“Cabot’s commitment to hand selecting cheddar for each of our many aged profiles, rather than simply relying on age is one of the reasons we are able to offer our customers a consistent, memorable experience,” notes Craig.
In addition to hand selecting cheddar profiles, Craig and the grading team focus heavily on educating other departments within Cabot, along with interested customers, on the aging process and how Cabot cheddar develops over time.
What is the best thing about being a Cabot Cheese grader?
Besides spending my days tasting large amounts of aged cheese? I love the investigative nature of tracking cheese characteristics back to the make. It is also rewarding attempting to play oracle and predict how a cheese will turn out months or years from now. After almost 10 years of grading, I am still excited by the intensity and amount of interesting flavors that develop in long-aged cheeses. Over time, each piece develops its own unique personality.
Do you have a favorite Cabot Cheddar flavor?
I am that guy that orders a different beer every time I’m at the pub. I really like matching a cheese to the situation, mood, or functional need. The flavor I am most excited with currently is the Cabot Alpine Cheddar. The really intense sweet and nutty flavors are offering a whole new world of flavor development, pairing options, and cooking ideas.
What’s your favorite beverage to accompany cheese?
Trying to keep up with the constant fresh offerings from Hill Farmstead Brewery has led to a lot of interesting cheese pairings. With the warm, sunny weather hitting Vermont, I have been enjoying serving sour Lambic beers with fruit-heavy cheese plates.
If you could have any Chef Cook for you, who would it be and what would they make?
Nathan Myhrvold, lead writer of The Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Myhrvold, former Chief Tech Officer with Microsoft, and his 20+ merry band of food scientists constructed a six volume guide to using advance equipment and cooking techniques, such as water-vapor ovens, vacuum pumps, liquid nitrogen, and cooking sous-vide, in order to create innovative recipes. I’ve always believed a little showmanship and artful presentation can raise the level of a high quality ingredient entree. Mix in well-tested scientific principles and you really have something special. I would love to experience the sous vine pork belly, ramen broth, and onsen egg dish.
What’s on your favorite Grilled Cheese sandwich?
One of the problems with having a cheese addiction is the large range of cheese ends floating around the refrigerator. Creative mac’n cheese and grilled cheese experiments are my favorite outlets. A couple of Frankensteins with some success:
-Monterey Jack and blue cheese roux with scallops and leeks
-Mix of mild and vintage cheddar with jalapenos and crab
For more recipes click here.