Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar Cheese
Generally, finding something “unexpected” in your food is a horrible experience. This isn’t the case when it comes to Unexpected Cheddar. This is, hands down, one of Trader Joe’s most talked about products, the Cookie Butter of the dairy section. It earned its name due to the small, salty pieces of parmesan hidden inside the sharp white Cheddar like little crystallized treasures. Each bite packs a surprise, leaving us to wonder what other things would be good to hide in a block of cheese.
Flavor notes: The cheese’s super salty crystals add some great flavor and a slight crunch to the cheese. “It’s a great snacking cheese that held up well in its packaging,” says Stevens.
What to do with it: Pair it with a mix of hard and soft pretzels with a variety of smooth, blended mustards, which would sync up nicely with the salt.
Jasper Hill Vault No. 5 Cave Aged Cheese
In Europe, they've been known to use the same caves to age cheeses for hundreds of years, but in the US "cave aged" generally translates to a form of aging in a clean, humidity controlled climate. So even though this was made with minimal spelunking, it still has that ripe tanginess, texture, and aroma indicative of the subterranean practice. Although not categorized as a Cheddar, the Vault #5 from Jasper Hill -- not a TJ-brand cheese, but one you can find at the store -- definitely has a similar flavor, slightly sharp taste, and smooth texture.
Flavor notes: “This cheese has a fudgy, nice creamy finish. It just melts in your mouth and saturates your tongue… you’re definitely going to want a drink with it,” says Stevens.
What to do with it: This would be great on paninis or paired with marinated vegetables and olives. A piece of the cheese with marinated mushrooms or dalmatian prosciutto on a slice of crusty bread would make all the flavors pop.
Trader Joe’s Traditional Whole Milk Ricotta
Ricotta is a universal cheese that can add a certain richness to foods like calzones, lasagna, and even desserts. Given its mild profile, don’t expect a strong flavor punch like you’d get from parm, but rather some mellow freshness. There are a few versions at TJ's, but go for the whole milk. When the fat content is higher, you really get that extra-creamy, smooth texture.
Flavor notes: This particular ricotta is extremely mild, light, and fluffy... not too salty, which would make it a wonderful cooking cheese for texturizing dishes.
What to do with it: Add it to pasta for a rich finish or use it to bake some warm ricotta cookies. You can just plate some of the cheese with a little lemon zest, salt, and pepper and chow down with a spoon and fresh bread. Wash it down with a light summer beer like a Kölsch.