Hoop Cheese: What Makes This Red-Ringed Delight So Special?
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Never heard of hoop cheese before? Most likely due to its rarity these days. This is a classic farmer's cheese that is formed by pressing the curd out of a round mould called a hoop after the whey from cottage cheese has been drained. Most hoop cheese manufactured is semi-soft, however some are aged slightly to improve stiffness. Hoop cheese used to be more accessible than any other kind of cheese and a mainstay of southern cuisine. Now, you're lucky if your neighbourhood grocery store has a wedge or two.

What Is Hoop Cheese?

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Southern United States produced hoop cheese, an extremely perishable semisoft to semifirm cheese. Usually found on display for purchase in small-town general stores, the owner would use a special cheese cutter to cut wedges to order for patrons. The wheel rested on a revolving circular board, and a big knife hung above it, ready to chop a customer's desired amount of weight into a wedge.

Simple, fresh cheeses like farmer's cheese, which is produced with milk, cream, and salt, or dry-curd cottage cheese, which is usually salted, are comparable to hoop cheese. But genuine hoop cheese is produced only with milk from cows; no cream or salt is added. As a result, the cheese's shelf life was just one to two weeks, far lower than that of matured cheeses. When fresh, it also has a rubbery texture and a very mild almost bland flavour. Hoop cheese was not mass-produced or shipped for sale outside of the region where it was produced; instead, because it was so perishable, it was usually prepared by the store owner or a local farmer or cheesemaker.

The main reasons why hoop cheese isn't as popular as it once used to be is because its production is difficult to standardise, it spoils easily, and—especially as per today's standards—it isn't the world's most delicious cheese.

How Did The Cheese Get Its Name?

The hoop-shaped moulds used to drain and shape the curds gave rise to the name "hoop cheese." Because of the red wax that is usually put on wheels, it is also known as red ring cheese. The soft, fresh kind of hoop cheese known as "baker's cheese" gets its name from the fact that it's frequently used to create cakes and pies.

Hoop Cheese Today

Although it is still made and sold today, hoop cheese is more closely comparable to mild cheddar cheese. Modern variations can be made by adding salt and annatto, which gives food a vivid orange hue. To give it a stronger taste, modern hoop cheese can be aged.