Cheeses are an indulgence I can deal in without issues, but the pressures of a diet and trying to remain healthy also factor into buying decisions. Is it worth it to get the butter from grass fed cows, or just buy the cheap stuff at Wall-Mart? What about eggs? Free range grass fed or feedlot eggs? Is it worth it, on a taste basis, to buy healthy cheeses? These are questions I ask myself almost every day.

To help answer these questions in part I did a taste test of 5 cheeses, including 2 new arrivals from Pastureland, and kept notes.

1. Black Diamond Grand Reserve. I eat so much of this I think I know what to expect. It’s a flavor I’d call cheesy and cheddary, and it’s almost immediate. Unlike some sharp cheddars, there is no bitterness and no overpowering flavor. Instead the flavor just grows on you and then seems to linger forever. The rich, deep cheesy sensations are what separates this cheese from wanna bes.

2. Boar’s Head Canadian Cheddar (Old World Collection). I tried this just to see if I wasn’t kidding myself in my Black Diamond addiction. My notes include: up front flavor less than that of B(lack) D(iamond), and more of a sharp salty aftertaste. Flavors include overtones of creaminess, butteriness. Lingering tastes. Good eating cheese.

3. Pastureland Organic Cheddar. Notes: more subdued, smoother, milky, creamy, a hint of some bitter flavors. Tastes do linger. Lingering flavors less concentrated and intense than the first two cheeses.

4. Pastureland Sogn Artisan Alpine Style Cheese. This was a bit of a misfit in the comparison process, being more aptly compared to a Swiss. Notes: initial tastes include aromatic overtones. Aftertaste very mild, buttery, milky, salty. Coffee flavors would work well with this cheese.

5. Kerry Gold Ivernia. Another mismatch, as this cheese resembles more a Parmesan than a cheddar. Notes: immediate and upfront. Nutty. Rich lingering aftertastes of salty cream, nuts, fruits.

In terms of delivering sheer flavor, Ivernia was at the head of the pack, followed by Black Diamond and the Boar’s Head cheddars, then the Aged Pastureland Cheddar and then the Sogn. But given the approximate variety of these cheeses and how long they were aged, that was the expected result. In conclusion? If you don’t expect flavor miracles from the Pastureland Cheeses, they’re just fine. Issues I had with them on receipt were that the cooling ice had melted and they weren’t in the best of condition on arrival. If you want picture perfect cheeses, it would be best to have them shipped 2nd day air.

If you’re a bachelor, then sometimes the hardest thing to do is come up with ways to jazz up your food, make it a little better. I can’t solve every cooking problem or every cooking issue, but we’ll list a trick every so often to help you on your cooking way.

1) If you’re making spaghetti and using one of the commercial spaghetti sauce packets with tomato sauce (or canned sauce) and meat, I’ll offer a couple ways to make it a better sauce. First, double the amount of ground beef they recommend. It makes the sauce richer, it makes the sauce more like a meal. Second, get a large bell pepper or two, sliced mushrooms perhaps,  and a triangle of parmesan cheese. No, not ground cheese, a real chunk of parmesan cheese. If you have access to a cheese shop and can get parmigiano-reggiano, that would even be better, but a chunk of parmesan from Wisconsin will be far better than anything you can get preground and in a can. Get a grater too, while you’re at it, if you don’t have one.

The cheese on the right can make a marked improvement to the packet on the left.

The cheese on the right can make a marked improvement to the packet on the left.

Follow the instructions on the packet, add the meat. Core and devein the pepper, then cut the pepper into strips or squares and toss that into the sauce. Before you’re done with the sauce, grate some cheese. Don’t grate too much, as a little parmesan goes a long way. Toss it into the sauce, stir thoroughly and taste test. Add pepper, basil, garlic  or other spices as desired.

Though not essential, pimentos can add both color and flavor to a sauce, and the smaller kind are cheap.

Though not essential, pimentos can add both color and flavor to a sauce, and the smaller kind are cheap.

I’ve seen bachelor friends try this and go from, “My mom makes the best spaghetti sauce in the world” to “Oh, that’s pretty good” and helping themselves to seconds.

Now obviously this isn’t the only way to improve on a spaghetti packet, or that can of Ragu. Other sites that offer ways to improve a sauce are here and here. And finally, though parmigiano-reggiano is about the most expensive cheese I know, outside of artisanal cheeses, since it’s used more to enhance flavors than be the meal, you don’t need much, you don’t use much, and if you keep it cool and dry, it keeps forever.