Trader Joe’s Smoked Chile Cheddar Cheese

Trader Joe's Smoked Chile Cheddar Cheese

WGaTJ’s covers a lot of ground. Find out what our opinions are on any beverage. It’s likely that it’s covered. You can find most snacks and desserts here. Yup. Bacon-related in any shape, form, or manner? Absolutely. Heck, even anything in the *ahem* fake meat realm? You bet.

We are lacking in one area: Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. The edible kind. We heard a lot of lame jokes. Although the cheese shelf in our local shop measures only a few by a few inches, it is filled with so much stuff that I tend to pass by. Some attempts have been successful while others have not. Sandy and me, however, keep our cheese shelves full of whatever we need to last the week. Unless something truly catches our interest, we move on. There was a very rare caramel-washed cheese out there that we have not been able to find, much to our dismay.

But…Trader Joe’s Smoked Chile Cheddar Cheese. You won’t believe me if that doesn’t sound delicious. It is TJ’s “spotlight” cheese, making it even more obvious to us.

Although this cheddar isn’t perfect, it’s still quite good. Three types of peppers are at play here: habanero jalapeno and pasilla. The last one I’ve never heard of until now. Pennsylvania suburban bringing-up, y’all. That peppery tango would lead you to believe there is a fiery furnace just waiting for your next bite. That’s only half the truth. Although the chiles appear to have been somewhat unevenly sliced through the chunk of meat we bought, some bites are more tender than regular pepper jack. But once you reach a vein, there is a lot. Even those bites are tempered by the soft creaminess of cheddar, something I didn’t fully expect to be that way.

When I see “aged for three months” and “handmade in Vermont”, I bank on many past experiences of plowing through as many cheddar samples as possible at the Cabot Factory Annex Store  in Waterbury, VT (right down the street from the Ben & Jerry’s factory – tradiotnal first and last stops on the annual family vacation to Vermont) expecting a certain kind of kinda drier sharpness. This cheddar is mild, although not too sharp. If the cheddar were more sharp, the peppers’ spiciness would be more prominent in the juxtaposition. This would make it more unique. TJ’s decided to go for a smoother flavor blend which may have been more popular, but it results in a more pepperjack-esque concoction.

While I might be more inclined to use “cold-smoked” or “made from fresh milk”, there isn’t much, if any, difference that I can see in those descriptors. We’d love to hear from you in the comments. Sandy and I were still happy for $8.99 per pound (our portion cost $3.50). Our cheese-loving toddler wasn’t too keen on the price. We tried to tell her yes, but as parents of three-year-olds, you know how difficult that can be. We have only tried the plain chunks. But we would love to try it with black bean soup, or as a grilled cheese. We’d definitely buy it again and this might help to re-pique interest in the much-overlooked corner of TJ’s-dom.

Bottom line: Trader Joe’s Smoked Chile Cheddar cheese: 7.5 out 10 Golden Spoons