ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

There's sharp cheddar and then there's a really sharp cheddar. In Wisconsin, a 15-year-old cheddar is now on sale for $50 a pound, and it comes from a pretty sharp cheese maker, the Hook's Cheese Company in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. The company says it's one of the oldest cheeses you can buy in the country.

Tony Hook from Hook's Cheese is with me now.

And, Mr. Cheese - Mr. Hook, how does this cheese taste?

Mr. TONY HOOK (Owner, Hook's Cheese Company): It's fantastic.

NORRIS: I figured you would say that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Could you describe it for us? I imagine it's not the taste of the cheddar that you might find in the refrigerator aisle in the average grocery store.

Mr. HOOK: Probably not. It's got quite a bit of flavor. It hasn't got any sort of bitterness to it as to what some people would expect for a real old cheddar. And once a cheddar cheese gets past three to five years, it kind of starts losing that acidic cheddar flavor also. So it just kind of tends to smooth out.

NORRIS: Now, how would one enjoy this?

Mr. HOOK: You'd probably want to just eat it by itself or with a fine wine or a good hearty stout beer.

NORRIS: You wouldn't put it on a cheeseburger?

Mr. HOOK: On a cheese what?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOOK: Excuse me.

NORRIS: You wouldn't want to put this on a cheeseburger.

Mr. HOOK: No. No, I don't think so. I don't think you'd want to put it in your mac and cheese, cook it too long and lose some of your flavors.

NORRIS: Now, this has been described as the single malt scotch of cheddar, quite an accomplishment to produce a 15-year-old cheddar. How did you do this?

Mr. HOOK: We have been aging cheddars for over 20 years. And at the time we started, we weren't actually setting out to age anything for 15 years, I guess. But as we aged some of it out and it was developing such good flavor, we decided we'd set some of it aside, age for 12 years and then for 15 years.

NORRIS: People listening to this may wonder, okay, if he's selling 15-year-old cheese, just how old is that cheese that you see at the supermarket that's shredded or in the regular packaging?

Mr. HOOK: The stuff you typically see in the shredded packages are maybe one to three months old. And if it does say sharp cheddar on it but doesn't give a year, it's probably less than a year.

NORRIS: Is this your oldest cheese?

Mr. HOOK: This is my oldest cheese I have for sale.

NORRIS: And what does that mean?

Mr. HOOK: I still have a few pounds left of what was 15 two years ago. So I still have a few pounds left, 17-year-old, but that's for personal consumption for the family.

NORRIS: Oh, private reserve.

Mr. HOOK: Yeah. Not for sale.

NORRIS: Under no circumstances.

Mr. HOOK: I don't even have a label for it.

NORRIS: So don't even ask.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Well, all the best to you, sir. Happy holidays.

Mr. HOOK: Thank you. Thanks for calling.

NORRIS: That was Tony Hook of Hook's Cheese Company in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. He was talking to us about his 15-year-old cheddar cheese now for sale at $50 a pound.

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