It’s been a long time with no new cheese.
I’m visiting England and France next month, so perhaps there will be an update then…stay tuned.
In the meantime, here’s my new website, please have a visit to the rest of Willow’s world!
It’s been a long time with no new cheese.
I’m visiting England and France next month, so perhaps there will be an update then…stay tuned.
In the meantime, here’s my new website, please have a visit to the rest of Willow’s world!
Hello Cheese Lovers!
I have been away for a bit, exploring some other food, but over Christmas, my husband gave me a $50 gift certificate for cheese, and yesterday I decided to see what could be had for $50 in Vancouver.
I present to you, the first ever “My Blog of Cheese” tasting flight.
Here is a summary of each cheese and my impressions, and all before 6 in the morning!
I have wanted to review this cheese for over a year, and boy, do I wish I tried this one earlier, it’s a gem. Livorot is on AOC washed rind cheese from Normandy, France made from pasteurized cow’s milk. This one’s a stinker! It’s meaty, asparagusy (is that a word?), chewy and sticky, creamy and gooey. The paste is light with small eyes, the rind is yellow/orange and sticky. There’s a slight crunch from the salt crystals in the rind. This cheese is amazing, so good! I just want to eat it all day. Wow!
Pain D’Ange (France)
I’m thinking this means “Bread Angel?” Does that mean it’s supposed to be eaten with bread, like a raclette? I really can’t find out much about this cheese, but that’s OK, because I’m not into it-at all. It’s overly mild, lifeless, and floppy. It lacks salt, and is somewhat insipid, it’s almost sweet. I just don’t get it, I feel like I’m missing something with this cheese. Can’t win them all.
Landana Gouda Blue Cow-organic, Holland)
I have been looking for a cheese like this for a long time: the love child of blue and Gouda, perfect! This is a handsome cheese, tall and strong with a wax rind, shot through with blue. It doesn’t read to me like a gouda, it’s more like a structured blue, and pretty mild for a blue. It has a surprisingly creamy texture, and unlike many blues, it’s not overly salty or too in your face-it’s pretty chilled out.
La Tomme des Joyeaux Fromagerie (Quebec)
This is an unpasteurized, cow cheese from Quebec. It’s a pretty cheese with a nice yellow paste and dark brown rind. The taste is, well- “farm-yardy,” you can really taste the terroir of the field, and I like that. It’s an authentic tasting cheese. It reminds me of Tomme de Savoie. It’s a meaty, chewy, melt in the mouth cheese. Mild with sweet grass notes.
Le Religeuse (Quebec)
The Nun, is a thermalized, organic cow cheese from Centre du Quebec. It was created in 2012 by the Fromagerie Presbytere for the 125th anniversary of Sainte Elizabeth-de-Werwick where the cheesemaker is located. The term Religieuse (Nun) refers to the cheese crust that forms at the bottom of the fondue pot or the well-grilled rind around the half wheel used in raclette. It’s a tall, handsome cheese, with medium-sized eyes in paste. It’s very mellow,and slightly rubbery, I can barely taste it, mind you, this is a fondue of raclette cheese, and I’m eating it straight, so that’s hardly fair…let’s try it melted…oh! Much better! Melt this one, it’s just great, gooey and unctuous, mmm.
Queso de Cabre al Romero (Spain)
This is a pasteurized goat cheese from Castille-la-mancha, aged for four months and covered in Rosemary. Goat AND Rosemary, together, as they should be. It’s toothsome, with a great texture, and lovely rosemary hint, nice and chewy, very mild yet delicious, nicely balanced. Although it is technically cheating by adding an extra taste, I will overlook it for this one, nicely done.
Mannoir (Quebec) which I believe is Tomme du Manoir Affines au Cidre de Pommes
This one is a little mysterious. It’s a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese, but I can’t find any reference to a “Mannoir” from Quebec, yet there is a Tomme du Manoir Affines au Cidre de Pommes- which looks a lot like my mystery cheese, so let’s go there. I first attempted this cheese straight, and once again, didn’t care for it. Then it occurred to me that this is also likely a raclette, so I melted it, and presto, delicious! There’s a little lesson there, if a cheese seems weird to you, melt it, you just might be eating it the wrong way. If this is the Cidre de pommes, it was finished in apple cider, which explains the sweet note-not bad when melted, do NOT eat this one cold.
This attractive cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk by the Coombe Castle company. It’s named for the Welsh Mountain Range where it is produced from Welsh cheddar, white wine and garlic and herbs. This one is cheating, clearly, it has onions, herb and garlic right in it-and I didn’t notice this it until it was too late. Still, very nice surprisingly soft paste for a “cheddar”, great balance, with a nice onion tone, a friendly cheese.
There are many different types of pecorino cheese-and I have reviewed several of them on this site, but today’s cheese, is a very special one. Pecorino Sardo, also known as Fiore Sardo (the flower of Sardinia) It is a DOP (Denominazione d’Origine) cheese given PDO (Protected designation of Origin) status. Many people confuse this special cheese with its more famous relative, Pecorino Romano, but our little flower of Sardinia is a richer and less salty version. It’s also the traditional cheese used in pesto, providing a nice balance to the garlic and basil.This ancient cheese actually predates the more famous Pecorino Romano. Where Pecorino Romano can be a “tad biting,” Fiore Sardo tends to be less overpowering and delicate-or so they say.
Fiore Sardo is a firm cheese, traditionally made from raw sheep’s milk specifically from the Sardinian breed of sheep. This is a truly ancient cheese, said to have originated during the Bronze Age! This cheese is traditionally made in small mountain huts by shepherds. The natural smoke from open fires in the huts give this cheese its characteristic smoky taste.
After the cheese is formed, it is briefly brined and then placed on a natural rush mat suspended above the fireplace of the mountain hut. This is old-school cheese smoking, and thus, I approve. I actually can’t stand “smoked” cheeses normally, but I must make an exception for this mountain-hut smoking. After this smoking, the cheese wheels are transferred the roof of the hut before going underground in a cellar for the last couple of months, where the wheels are flipped and rubbed with olive oil (!!!)
WARNING-THE INFORMATION AHEAD IS SLIGHTLY VILE
Fiore Sardo can be processed further into the most infamous cheese in the world-Casu Marzu, which is a fly maggot infested version of this cheese. As Casu is illegal, even in Sardinia, I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to review it, so this is about the closest I’m going to get. So shall we-for a minute, discuss dear Casu Marzu? This fabulous cheese goes for beyond fermentation into decomposition, this occurs via the digestive track of the larvae of the cheese fly, Piophila casei. The rind of the Fiore Sardo is cut open and the larvae are deliberately introduced. The fermentation of the larvae digestion breaks down the cheese fats making the cheese very soft and liquid. The live and translucent worms are ingested (live!!!!) along with the cheese. These larvae can jump up to 15 centimetres in the air so people cover their sandwiches with one hand as they eat their bread and cheese. I really wish I was joking!
Alas, today’s cheese is the non-maggot infested version of Fiore Sardo, although I must confess something. When I sat down to write this review I thought the cat had been sick somewhere near the computer. After searching for a few minutes, I realized it was the cheese. This is not a joke. It actually smells exactly like cat-sick, and this is WITHOUT the addition of fermentation and maggots. I just hope you appreciate the lengths I go to bring you the latest of cheese on this blog.
My thin slice of Fiore Sardo is dry and robust. The paste is textured throughout with small crystals. The paste is creamy in the interior, then gets darker brown near the rind. This is a naturally smoked cheese, and you can smell that smoke (through the cat-sick smell) as you get closer. It’s, um, pungent. I’m actually a little afraid, but at least there are no maggots leaping up to 15 centimetres from it, I must take small solace in this fact.
Holy crap! FLAVOUR!!!! INTENSE!!!! It’s sharp, very sharp, and salty, and astringent and sheepy and crunchy and then smoky. It’s completely over the top. I think my husband would actually not be able to eat this one without immediate expiring . This is probably the most intense cheese I have tasted-and that’s saying something. It basically kicks you in the face, over and over again. It’s like every strong cheese taste in the world has been distilled into this one cheese. But, actually, it’s really good. Mmmm. It’s so freaky that it’s fabulous. It’s disgusting, but in a completely compelling way. This one is definitely NOT a starter cheese, but if you are looking for something to strip down your taste buds and reconfigure your idea of what is edible, go for it!
I stumbled across a new cheese yesterday, in the cheese remainder bin at Whole Foods. I’m overly fond of the remainder bin, and always spend a couple of minutes rooting around in it for something special. Today’s find was a new one to me, Hirten by Castello. Hirten is cheese giant Arlo (Castello’s) version of Hirtenkäse, or “herder’s cheese”, a distinctive cow’s milk Mountain Cheese cheese made in the Allgäu area of Southern Germany. Hirten was made available for sale in 2012 in North America, which explains why it’s flown under my cheese radar thus far.
Traditionally, cow herders bring their cows from the Alps down into the valley in Allgäu each fall, which marks the official start of the Almabtrieb, or descent. This special day is celebrated with a festival. During this festival the “lead cow” of each farmer is decorated with flowers as the herd is lead down from the mountains to their barns. Passers by great and cheer on the cows. Seriously! That’ s a sight that’s going on my bucket list.
That’s where the name Hirtenkäse comes from. It is German for “herdsman‘s cheese”. Hirtenkäse cheese was traditionally made from the milk from these cows, and has been made here for centuries from the pooled milk of many of these small farms. The milk was pasteurized before the cheese was created, and then aged- traditionally only aged for 8 months prior to sale. The “Hirten” version I’m tasting today is an homage-I suspect- to this traditional Hirtenkäse: similar recipe, similar milk, but I’m not convinced that “Hirten” and “Hirtenkase” are exactly the same cheese.
My little wedge of remainder Hirten looks quite dry and aged-I would have guessed this cheese was older than 8 months. There is a wax rind which I shall remove, of course. The interior is a creamy yellow, shot through with tyrosine (crystals) and it kind of looks like a Grana Padano or a Parmigiano-Reggiano a handsome, bold looking cheese, and quite showy. The smell is mild and, well, cheesy.
Mmmmm. This is a true Mountain cheese. It’s like a Comte crossed with a Gruyère. It’s creamier than it looks, it doesn’t crumble in the mouth, it dissipates. It’s a nice balance of sweet and salt, the faint crunch of crystal is there, but again, quite restrained. As you approach the rind, the taste gets a little funkier. That may be a mild understatement, ok it gets really funky towards the rind. Mmmm. Actually, I really dig this cheese, everything is perfectly balanced, it’s a big, handsome cheese with a strong cheese taste, but nothing pops, it’s all smooth sailing.
I quite like this Hirten, but I would love to compare it to the artisanal version- Hirtenkäse, as it’s hard to say how close this one comes to the original. I do like to think of the lead cow being covered in flowers coming down from the mountain, I’m just a little worried that this maybe didn’t happen in this case. Regardless, it’s a delicious cheese, and could be a proud addition to any cheese board.
Often, when it comes time to research my weekly cheese, I really have to dig. Many of the cheeses I discover are relatively unknown, or obscure. But not today’s cheese, this one is a little rock star. Pages and pages of information on the internet seem to clarify that Beemster XO-now known as Beemster Extra Aged, is a very special-and perhaps more importantly, ubiquitous cheese.
I have been kind of ignoring Beemster for a while-because it is so damn ubiquitous. It just seems to show up in every cheese case I see, saying “pick me! Eat me! I’m so yummy!” And that kind of extreme extraversion in a cheese I find a little off-putting, but what can I say, finally I have given in.
Beemster XO (you can check out the Beemster website here ) is a Dutch Gouda cheese made of pasteurized cow’s milk. It is not a super aged Gouda-despite the name-I have sampled Gouda over 4 years of age. This one is matured for 26 months, making it Beemster’s oldest cheese. According to the Beemster folks, the reason they sell at the 26 age point is to keep the cheese still a little moist and cuttable, while retaining that famous butter-scotchy aged Gouda taste. 26 months seems to be the tipping point-we shall see!
Beemster is actually a municipality in North Holland and it is also the name of the first “polder” in the Netherlands-which is land reclaimed from a lake bottom after the water was removed via windmills (seriously, can this get more fantastic?) The Beemster Polder was dried during the period 1609 through 1612. This famous Dutch ‘Polder’ was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, making this my first Unesco World Heritage site terroir based cheese, hurrah! It’s unique terroir is the result of the clay soil left behind in the polder- nutrient and mineral rich,with a distinctive slate blue colour. Apparently, this terroir yields grasses more fertile and thicker and longer than others, giving the milk produced here an especially sweet and creamy quality.
The cheese makers at Beemster are all local residents of the polder, and the majority have learned their cheesemaking techniques from previous generations. The top-secret recipe for Beemster has been handed down since 1901 (I do love a top-secret cheese recipe, bonus marks for this!) Beemster is run by a co-op of farm families, and the co-op itself was formed in 1901. Prior to this, cheese here was made by hand by the farmers’ wives, each in their own kitchens. Forming the co-op streamlined production, ensured consistency, and made sense financially. Over the years, this small co-op has stood by its original (top-secret) recipe.
My step dad’s parents were great lovers of Limburger in his childhood. One parent or the other would stop-at any point in the day- and inquire, “want one?” If the other agreed, then a sandwich would be created. A specific sandwich: dark rye bread, thick slices of onion, brown mustard and smeared slabs of Limburger. These sandwiches were eaten wordlessly by his parents, but with great enjoyment. To my step dad, this was, perhaps, the most vile concoction ever created. He never did sample this infamous sandwich, but his parents remained devoted to the Limburger sandwich all of their days. I have known this story for years, and thought it was original to his family. In researching this blog post, I discovered I was wrong. This was in fact, a famous sandwich! The Limburger Sandwich, one connected with and enjoyed by working class folks around the world for over 130 years.
Limburger is perhaps the most infamous of all cheeses for its stench. So let’s unpack that now, shall we? That “something died in my toes 3 months ago” smell of Limburger, is actually caused by a unique bacteria. Limburger is a washed rind cheese, and this bacterium is applied several times during the ripening. It functions to decompose the cheese, and by doing so it transforms the cheese in a few months time from a fresh curd- similar to feta- into a stinky one that eventually smells a little like pee. This bacteria, Brevibacterium linens, is-in fact, the very same one found on human skin. Brevibacterium linens is also partly responsible for body and foot odour, so that familiar smell is no coincidence. It really does stink like feet, and armpits, and……
Originally made in the Belgian area of Limbourg-hence the name, Limburger is widely made and enjoyed in Germany as well. Limburger accompanied German and Belgian immigrants to America in the late 19th century. It was a taste of the old country and a nostalgic food that connected them to a home they had lost. Limburger was closely related and associated with these new immigrants, and jokes about the cheese and about the immigrants went hand in hand. Vaudeville comedians called it the “cheese you can find in the dark.” The new world hybrid dialect of English, German and Dutch was called “Limburger English.” Limburger symbolized the lower class and also comedy. These new immigrants, they were so funny! They couldn’t speak correctly, and they ate weird cheese! Limburger and new immigrants were often maligned. In fact, in 1902, the Louisville, Kentucky’s health officer, Dr. M.K. Allen, banned Limburger and promised to prosecute any and all Limburger dealers. Determining that its bacteria made it “unwholesome.”
My sample of Limburger is from the St. Mang company, in Germany. It’s made from pasteurized milk, and is in a pretty red foil package. When I peel back the wrap, I smell an ever so pleasant odour of feet, and perhaps just a little crotch-I shall admit that here, but it was simply charming! It’s no worse than a Taleggio or an Oka, and it is nowhere as gnarly as an Epoisses or a Stinking Bishop. I don’t know what all the fuss is about! This is hardly the stinkiest cheese I have smelled, it’s just one of the many washed rind cheeses that use bacterium linens, and when you have bacterium linens, my friends, you have body odour. That’s just the way it is.
My Limburger is sticky and slightly orange and brown on the outside rind. It’s a rectangular cheese with a pattern of the cheese mould slightly imprinted. My cheese is “best before” 2 days from now, so I know it’s just perfect. It’s ready to smear on some rye bread with onions, which, alas, I do not possess. What a shame! Yes, this cheese does reek, let me be clear, but why is reeking such a bad thing? Why do we have to pretend we live in a world where yummy things don’t stink? I refuse, I embrace the reek.
Mmmm. It’s like meat, and cheese, and asparagus, and salt, and arm pit, and shoes all rolled into one. Actually, it’s freaking great. It’s relatively mild…relatively…yes, the rind is more intense in flavour compared to the much milder interior paste, but the interior is just cheesy goodness. The rind is giving me wafts of uric acid (that means pee, by the way) and ammonia, but I really dig it. I really dig it! Did I mention I dig this? Holy Hannah, this cheese is really great, one million immigrants couldn’t be wrong. Go out and get some, pick up some rye bread, onions and brown mustard and get connected to your roots. Limburger, you are a keeper!
One of the biggest issues for me in becoming educated about cheese, is that my family is getting educated about cheese too. In the past, I could simple buy a big block of cheap orange crap and throw it in their general direction-and they were happy. But oh, how things have changed. Last week, my teenager begged me for some gouda. Some very pricey gouda. A rare, raw milk, gouda. “Oh mommy, it looks so yummy, oh please!” She said. And I relented, even though I wasn’t in the mood for expensive, raw milk gouda. Teenagers can be so demanding!
Thus, today I bring you-literally out of the mouths of babes (because that’s where it’s going once I complete this post) a fabulous looking (and pricey) gouda: Oplegkaas, from Holland. Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas is a traditionally made gouda. It is typically aged 3-4 years before sale (opleg means ‘aged’ in Dutch.) Alas, I don’t know how old my sample is, but let’s assume three years minimum. It is made from raw milk, and only from milk sourced during the summer season, when cows are grazed in the pastures of the peat meadows of the “Green Hart” region of Holland-between the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht.
Gouda has a kind of great origin story. The actual town of Gouda became a central cheese market in the seventeenth century. The first “weighing rights” were granted in 1668 in the town of Gouda. Farmers and traders were obliged to weigh their cheeses here and taxes were imposed. It was a cheese based economy of sorts. Over the next 200 years or so dairy cooperatives took over most cheese production in Holland from individual farmers. Fortunately, the Gouda cheese makers resisted, and traditional farmstead cheesemaking has persisted in this region. Approximately 250 farmers in the Gouda region, still produce raw milk farmstead cheese (called boerenkaas). Their numbers are shrinking, so go out and get some, if you have a hankering for the real thing.
Like all Gouda, Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas is a washed-curd cheese. Washing the curd helps to removes part of the lactose, which reduces the acidity and bitterness in the aged cheese leaving it sweet and caramel-like in affinage.This Oplegkaas-Boeren Goudse is a true raw milk product. This means the milk and curd are not heated above 40 degrees celcius during the production, resulting in this cheese being labelled with the EU label for guaranteed Traditional Speciality (GTS). And for the record, gentle readers, that means I am back on raw milk cheese-who could stay away?
Only a handful of cheese makers still produce Gouda in this traditional way, making the cheese in wooden molds lined with natural linen. The rind of the cheese forms naturally with a minimal use of plastic. No, this is not that red plastic covered crap you see in every market claiming to be “Gouda.” This, my friends, is the real thing.
My tiny sample of This Oplegkaas-Boeren Goudse-wrestled away from a teenager, is a handsome, tall chunk of cheese. I couldn’t get a shot of the larger round-sadly, but it’s clear that this came from a large cheese. It’s very firm and aged, and was challenging to cut-hence the crumble in the second shot. It smells just divine when I remove the wrapper. It’s been waiting for me, for years! It’s a creamy yellow cheese, darker near the wax rind, there are some large eyes and it’s crusted with tyrosine crystals (mmm).
Dry. Sweet. Crunchy. Caramel. Salivary glands working over time. Intense! Aged. Complex.Melting butterscotch. Hint of mould Crazy! WOW! OPLEGKAAS BOEREN GOUDSE!!!!!!
Go out there and support a Dutch tradition, with this ” Dutch Treat.” I’m keeping the rest of this one for myself.