Day 61-Pecorino D’oro

 

I’m  happy to be tasting an Italian cheese today-and not just any Italian cheese-a Pecorino.  I first heard of and tasted Pecorino about three years ago.  My sister was battling cancer (f*ck cancer) and was told she couldn’t have cow cheese while on this special anti-cancer diet. Or wheat for that matter. She was having a terrible hankering for pizza.  We actually found a spelt crust that would work, but we needed cheese.  We wandered into an Italian deli and explained our problem.  The nice lady cut us off a wedge of this Pecorino, a sheep’s milk cheese.  The cheese totally rocked and after we assembled the pizza we ate the rest of the wedge to our faces-revelling in the wonder of pecorino.  How in the world had we gone so many years without this delightful cheese?

Now here’s the really interesting bit for me-there are at least 15 types of Pecorino!  My new best friend the “World Cheese Book” lists 15, but that doesn’t even include the one I am going to review.  Clearly Pecorino is a really big deal, but I had never, ever tasted it.  The shame.  Pecorino is actually an umbrella term for all Italian cheeses made from sheep’s milk.  The word pecora means sheep.  There are 4 main types, all are DOP Protected Designation of Origin, so if it says “Pecorino” it is. Some pecorino has stuff mixed into it, truffles (mmm), walnuts or even live fly larva (that’s no word of a lie, it’s casu marzu, and I shan’t be reviewing it!)

Nomadic shepherds have produced sheep cheese in Italy for at least 1000 years.  Shepherds made their own cheeses and traded them when they brought their sheep in from pasture.  These cheeses mostly come from Tuscany  and almost died out after the first world war when Italian shepherds literally abandoned their flocks and fled to the cities. Luckily, the tradition didn’t entirely die out, and since the 1960’s the herds and the tradition of cheese making have slowly returned to their former glory.  In 1987 DOP was awarded to the Pecorino cheeses.  According to the official spokespeople for the cheese it,  “should be eaten in the same humble manner in which the Tuscan peasant combated hunger and fatigue.”  Nice, I can channel a hungry humble Tuscan peasant!

I’m clearly going to have to sample more than one Pecorino.  It’s like trying only one cheddar.  Not going to happen.  Today’s cheese, “Pecorino d’oro” was a bit of a trickster for me to research. The problem is one of translation. I had a lot more luck searching under “Pecorino Oro Riserva” or “Pecorino Oro Antico,” alternative names for the same cheese.  Pecorino d’Oro, which translates into “Antique Gold”  is actually an aged Tuscan Pecorino.  This pasteurized sheep’s cheese is aged more than 6 months.  It has a hard and inedible  rind which has been rubbed with olive oil repeatedly (lucky!).Pecorino d’Oro  is artisanal and handmade. The cheese gets harder and tangier while aging (don’t we all). This cheese is made and distributed by Il Forteto, a large Italian affineur and distribution company

My slice of Pecorino d”Oro looks like parmesan.  The interior is a creamy white with no eyes, although I may be seeing some tyrosine crystal action-that would be nice!  The rind is kind of grey, and I won’t try that.  The smell is pretty chilled out, you have to put your nose right up to it and it doesn’t have any horrid urine reek like some of the younger cheese.  This one’s been hanging out in affinage for quite a while so it’s behaving itself. This is clearly not the cheese my sister and I ate on pizza, as that was a soft cheese.  Oh well, age before beauty!

Here goes…

Salty!  Sheepy!  Crunchy! Tangy! Piquant! This cheese is crazy!  I’m not sure you are supposed to eat this cheese like this, it’s very hard and dry-perhaps it should be grated?  No, eating it works too.  It’s just packed with tyrosine crystals, it’s bizarrely  crunchy and yummy.  The sheep isn’t overwhelming, but it’s there under that intense yummy tang. I actually really like this cheese, but I can’t figure out how or why I would eat it.  It just seems too hard for eating on its own, but if you grated it, you would miss out on the crunch, which would be a shame.  Yummy cheese.  Nice, just shut up and chew it.  So much flavour! Oh yeah.  If you are looking for a hard and intense cheese, try this one out.

Day 60-Dubliner Cheese

I have a little confession.  I ran out of cheese yesterday due to a miscalculation of my part-I thought I had one more cheese to go, but it was actually a slice of Cave Aged Gruyère that I had stashed at the back of my cheese drawer for my own personal consumption-like a little fromage loving squirrel.  I can’t get to Benton Brothers-my cheese “guy” until 10 today, so what to do?  Well, here it is.  I went to Safeway.  Yes.  I did.  I thought that perhaps in the deli section there might be a little chunk of something interesting and authentic to review.

It’s actually fascinating to go to a Supermarket now, with my jaded cheese eye-and actually look at the cheese and actually read the label.  Virtually every cheese is clearly industrial, and owned by a large conglomerate. Many of the cheeses are just the name of the cheese:”Gouda,” Cheddar,” mozzarella,” but with no maker’s mark, no country of origin.  It’s quite mysterious.  Others are clearly branded.  The company, Agropur-which now owns the Oka cheese I recently reviewed, has at least 8 different cheeses, all proudly bearing their brand.  This isn’t to say that mass-produced cheese is necessarily bad.  I actually adored the Agropur Oka.  Large scale production allows for lower prices and also consistency in the cheese, so I’m not against either of those.  It’s the heart of the cheese that seems to be missing.  The story of the cheese.  I don’t just want to eat cheese, I want to learn about it, to connect with it somehow.  Without that authentic bit of history, it’s empty and hollow for me.  I am nostalgic for cheese.

Which brings me to what I like to think of as “Nostalgia” cheese.  New and contrived cheese with an old-timey name and pretty wrapper specifically invented and packaged to snooker folks like me into buying something they think has a great past.  In some ways the Yarg I reviewed is an example of nostalgia cheese. Yarg is just the family name-Gray-backwards, chosen because they wanted a “Cornish sounding” name for marketing purposes.  However, they did use an old recipe and old-timey techniques, so that’s entirely forgivable.

My selection for today clearly falls into the nostalgia camp.  It’s called “Dubliner” and comes in a sexy paper wrapper (old-timey) which has a drawing of a red store front and an old-fashioned bicycle leaning on it (more old-timey).  So charming!  Of all the cheeses in the store, this one looked the most like an authentic cheese plus it was from Ireland, legitimately, and who doesn’t like Irish stuff?  It’s the Old Country!

So I purchased my little wedge of Dubliner and headed home to research it and this is what I found, it’s actually made by Kerrygold, the face of the Irish Dairy Board-a state backed agricultural co-op marketing machine in Ireland. Dubliner cheese was launched by Kerrygold in 1996.  It is not even made in Dublin.  Sigh.  From all accounts it’s a sort of cheese hybrid with some elements of Cheddar, Swiss and parmesan.  Dubliner was created by cheese maker, John Lucey, who still keeps the secret recipe. It’s an industrially produced pasteurized cow cheese, matured over 12 months.  I guess I shouldn’t be so pissy about Dubliner.  Why shouldn’t the Irish have their own marketing and make their cheese look just as appealing as possible?  Wouldn’t I do the same thing?  It’s just that I thought I was buying a slice of my heritage, when really, the whole thing was contrived to make me feel a connection that wasn’t really there.  It’s not the cheeses fault.  Maybe it’s actually yummy.  Lots of old-timey cheese is really nasty, maybe this one actually rocks!

My little block of Dubliner looks exactly like white cheddar, even the texture when cut appears to be cheddar.  I suspect a “cheddarring” technique is used with this cheese.  I have actually seen it referred to as “cheddar” in some sites. It smells mild and well, exactly like cheddar.  There is no rind, linen, or butter smears to report.

Here goes…

It’s sweet.  That’s weird.  And a little crunchy, and a little tangy.  It’s like someone stirred a bag of sugar into the cheddar bowl while the cheese maker’s back was turned.  Seriously.  Do they add sugar to this cheese?  It’s bizarrely sugary.  Maybe it’s an Irish thing? Aside from this, it’s just another cheddar type of cheese in an old-timey package.  The texture is fine if a little pasty, and I like the calcium crunch-but the sugar is just weirding me out.  Maybe that’s not calcium crunch, could it be sugar crystals?  Interesting, but not my slice of cheese.

Day 59-Boschetto al Tartufo

When I started this blog I intended to eschew all cheeses with stuff in them.  Cheddar-with chives, Gouda-with seeds, it all seemed a little artificial to me.  I mean, if the cheese isn’t good enough on its own, will throwing some onion, or cranberry or basil really smarten it up?  As well, is it fair to compare a cheese with stuff in it to a stand alone cheese?  Is the  add-on actually giving the cheese un unfair advantage?  These are the sorts of thoughts I wrestle with in order to bring  you-oh gentle reader-the very best cheese blog possible.

But then, the other day I ate some of this cheese quite by accident-this Boschetto al Tartufo, and it was just divine.  Tartufo means truffle so really, you can see how outrageously biased and unfair the rest of this essay if going to be.  If you add truffle to anything it will become 25% better. I’m sure that’s been scientifically proven.  There’s something about those little mushrooms that drives us humans, and well, pigs as well-insane.  The smell and the flavour hints at mystery, and adventure, and love, and all things good.  To add this to any cheese, even dare I say a “cheese product” would make that substance cross over to a whole other level of taste.  Totally unfair.  However, what’s done is done.  I must sample this cheese, and I must write about it.  Forgive me, I know that I sin, but I am mortal.  Speaking of sin, I have just realized that this is only my second Italian cheese, and that’s just unacceptable. I pledge henceforth to venture into Italy mouth first after a quick detour to Ireland tomorrow.

Back to truffles, truffles are the fruiting body of a mushroom, actually found underground,  usually around the roots of trees.  They don’t grow in North America and are mostly found in France and Italy, which is just mean. They are outrageously expensive, yet so pungent in flavour that you only need the smallest amount to make an impact. If you haven’t ever eaten truffle, go out and find some now.  You can purchase little containers of truffle infused oil at many stores which is generally pretty affordable and flavourful.  Drizzle it over everything that’s a savoury and suddenly- all will praise your cooking.  It’s my secret weapon.   Brillat Savarin, the French gastronome  declared truffles the “the diamond of the kitchen,” and he is correct.

I’m going on about truffles here, because as it turns out, Boschetto al Tartufo is a tough cheese to find out much about on the internet. All I can discern is that it is a pasteurized cheese made from a mixture of sheep and cow milk and slivers of white truffle, which are actually black in colour-strangely. This cheese is aged for a maximum of 2 months, and actually belongs to a tradition of truffle cheeses in Italy. Who knew?  That’s what I get for overlooking Italy!  My sample is from Il Forteto, a food distribution co-operative outside of Florence who make a number of cheeses, olives and other yummies.  That’s it, no history, no monks, no caves.  Disappointing.

My little wedge of Boschetto al Tartufo beckons me to overlook this paucity of information.  It’s a pure white cheese with no discernible rind at all.  There are black slivers of truffle throughout the cheese body-some sources claim the rind is also rubbed with truffle oil, and I do hope this is the case.  It looks to have the texture of a mozzarella-kind of rubbery.  The smell is intriguing, I can definitely get a hint of sheep-that’s the “oops, I stepped in the milk bucket” odour, but there’s something else, that otherworldly truffle thing that just makes me a little crazy.  The truffle actually overwhelms everything else about this cheese, but that’s ok, it’s allowed to.

Here goes…

Ohhhhhhh, mmmmm, ahhhhhhh.  You should be so jealous right now.  I don’t care who makes this cheese, or what the freaking history is, just go out and buy it. The taste is completely out of this world.  It’s a little salty, but that’s ok, as it serves as a foil to the perfect pairing of sheep and truffle, an exotic and sexy little menage. The texture is also crazy good, it’s not rubbery at all, I was wrong!  It actually melts the second you put it in your mouth, and spreads its truffley goodness. Apparently it’s just freaking amazing also melted on a grilled cheese (seems so wrong it just might be right) or risotto, or in an omelette.  But who can save it long enough to melt it?

This cheese could become a bad habit.  Just go out and buy some and thank me later.

Day 58-Oka (Agropur Signature)


I’m excited to be tasting and reviewing Oka cheese today. Oka is perhaps the first non-Industrial cheese I ever tasted-ironically, it’s now an industrial cheese-but back in the 1980’s a Québécois friend of ours dropped by with a wedge of cheese unlike anything we had ever seen or smelled before.  It wasn’t orange, or marbled and it didn’t come in a pre-shrunk plastic wrap.  When we opened it up we reeled from the pungent stench.  What in the world was this?  I was terrified of the cheese, but my mother dived in and proclaimed it to be the “feet of the Gods.”  And so her love of Oka began, and my interest in cheese piqued.

Oka cheese is named after the village of Oka in Quebec, also known for the “Oka crisis,” which luckily, had nothing to do with cheese.  The cheese was originally made in this village in 1893 and was a Canadian version of “Port Salut” cheese, a French washed rind cheese. Monks originally from Port Salut established a monastery in La Trappe, (Trappist monks)near the village of Oka and started making their own cheese, and thus- Oka was created.  Oka and Port Salut are yet more examples of so-called “monastic cheeses,” meaning  washed rind cheeses made traditionally by monks. What’s up with monks and washed rind cheeses?  I keep running into this connection-if anyone knows, please let me in on the secret!

Alas, the Trappist monks sold the rights to Oka in 1996 to a commercial company-Agropur.  The Trappist monks got out of the cheese business, but I do hope they made a tidy profit.  It’s a little sad for me, as I was under the impression that this was still a monk-made cheese, and I don’t know why I should care, but I do.  It’s somehow not as romantic this way-not that there is anything overly romantic about monks making cheese, I concur.

Thus, the rights to Oka is now owned by the Agropur company, which is a fascinating company in it own right.  This Canadian owned dairy co-operative was founded in 1938 and has  5,000 employees and 27 plants and offices in Canada, the US and Argentina.  Agropur doesn’t just own Oka, it also produces Yoplait and Island farms, amongst others.  There are 3,500 dairy farmers in the Agropur family making it the  largest dairy cooperative in the country.

Oka is now industrially produced.  It can be either raw or pasteurized, and my little label doesn’t state which, so I’m not sure.  If it matters, ask your cheese monger.  It’s still a washed rind cheese, and made in the same manner as before, except no monks are involved. Sigh. After the cheese is pressed it is washed with brine to encourage the ripening of the rind during affinage-the cheese is at least one month old when ripe, although the “classic” version is ripened 2 months.  Agropur offers 6 types of Oka cheese: creme, raclettte, light,  mushroom, classique, and l’artisan.  I don’t know which type of have as my label called it “Signature” so it’s a bit of a mystery.

My little wedge of somewhat mysterious Oka has been warming up beside me on my desk as I write.  It’s a pale yellow, speckled with holes (eyes) and it has an orange washed rind with a little white mould and it is ever so slightly sticky. The cheese is relatively firm and tensile, it’s not a wet cheese.  The smell is actually mild, which surprises me-my original memory of Oka was that it reeked, but this cheese is pretty chilled out for a washed rind.  Mind you, it was my first experience ever with washed rind, so maybe I’m jaded now-or maybe the monks put something in their rind back in the 1980s that’s missing here.  Who knows.

Here goes…

Mmmmmm.  Yes, I do still like this cheese.  It’s actually freaking fantastic. The flavour is complex and delicious-intense, but not overly raunchy. It does taste like the feet of the Gods-mom was right!  It’s kind of foul, and kind of fabulous.  It does have a  hint of mould, especially if you include eating the rind-which you must-and a faint hint of ammonia.  But it all really works.  The texture is also really great.  It’s much more tensile than the other washed rinds-meaning it has a chew to it-it’s not floppy or wet or slimy, this cheese could keep it together on a sandwich.  You know, I actually wasn’t prepared to like this Oka, not being made by monks anymore, but Agropur has done a great job here.  It’s the cheese I remember and definitely a keeper.  Damn, it’s all gone.  Got to get some more.

Day 57-Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar

Welcome back from Christmas, everyone, I hope you had a groovy one. On my third and final day of Cheddar we shall answer the question: what is cheddar?  Cheddar is a cheese that has a special final stage done to it…it’s called…cheddaring! After making and heating the cheese curds they are kneaded with salt-the salty curd is then cut into cubes and stacked to drain the whey.  This is “cheddaring” and results in that creamy yet firm texture, which is also dry, yet moist. Cheddar can be eaten after 2-3 months, or aged more.  Vintage cheddar is matured at least 15 months, up to eight years.  The maturation is tricky and needs special temperature and humidity-preferably caves, preferably, with groovy names. Classic cheddar is cloth bound and after 6 months of aging will contain calcium lactate crystals, which I have confused with tyrosine-it’s that little crunch in your cheese-calcium lactate in Cheddar, tyrosine in Gouda, Gruyère and parmesan.  Traditional Cheddar cheese is sometimes packaged in black wax, but more often is wrapped in buttered cloth which keeps the cheese clean while allowing it to “breath.”

Unlike that orange crap you buy at the super market, real cheddar is never soapy in texture, it should be a little brittle and crumbly. Cheddar should also be off white in colour, but is one of the most popular dyed cheeses, traditionally with annatto.  Kraft-the largest producer of industrial cheddar uses an extract of paprika along with annatto to colour its cheese. Cheddar these days is either industrial (more common) or artisanal, and the difference between these two is vast.

In the USA, cheddar cheese that has not been coloured is often labelled as “Vermont Cheddar” regardless of where it is made. There is a whole world out there of fake cheddar flavoured products, and this will be the only time in this blog that I refer to them.  These pre-packaged “dinners,” “cheeze in a can,” “spreads,” and other heinous inventions are NOT cheese and they are NOT cheddar.  In fact, I’m not sure they are even “food.”  If it says “processed cheese” it’s not actually cheese, it’s something else- just walk on by.

Luckily, today’s cheddar is the real thing, it’s a raw milk cloth bound from Avonlea, home of Anne of Green Gables.  I like to think of Anne and Gilbert, strolling down those red roads munching on this cheese!  This cheddar is aged for 12 months and wrapped in linen, old school style-it’s the only Canadian maker of this style of cheddar.  Dairy big-wig Scott Linkletter-owner of COWS ice-cream company, fell in love with real cheddar and decided to bring it to Canada.  He hooked up with cheese maker Armand Bernard and they took an old Scottish recipe from the Orkney Islands with some tweaks and invented their own unique version-Avonlea.  Thus, it’s a relatively new cheese, but in the old fashion.  This cheese was awarded first place at the 2009 American Cheese Society awards.

As you can see from the photo below, my little slice of Avonlea cloth bound cheddar has crumbled to bits-nicely demonstrating the texture of traditional cheddar-this is cheddar, not that spongey, soapy orange stuff.  We have been fooled, people!  It’s a nice buttery colour, and true to its name, is wrapped in a linen bandage smeared with butter (gosh, that sounds a little naughty!) I can barely smell this one, it’s not a vintage cheddar, it’s only aged for 12 months, so that piquant hit of the older cheddars isn’t here, it’s very mild.

Here goes…

Hmmm, tangy, salty, a tiny bit sweet, no hint of rot, no ammonia at all-it’s quite benign.  Smooth paste texture with no crystal crunch.  But wait…there’s just the faintest hint of mould, mushroom and barn that you have to really focus to taste, it’s hiding under this facade of being a “proper little cheese.”  Actually, it’s a little perverse, and I like that!  Initially it seems to be a well-behaved cheese, but the more I eat it, the more I taste the complexity and mystery and danger.  It’s like that boy you dated that your parents really liked because he seemed so nice-but he actually wasn’t nice- but in a really fun way…you know, like that?  I prefer a little naughtiness in my cheese, but I appreciate that not everyone does.  This cheese allows me both, in one buttered little slice.  Nice work, Avonlea!

Day 56-Cornish Yarg

 

I’m still a little traumatized about yesterday’s cheese, Stinking Bishop.  I met my match at last-but they say the best thing to do after you fall off that bike is to get back on again.  Thus, here I am, Boxing Day morning in Powell River, cheese at my side.  It’s important to not let these cheese setbacks scar you.  Yes, there will be heinous cheeses out there, but if you stop eating cheese every time you taste one, you might be stuck in an endless hell of mozzarella, so be brave, push on (this is my superego speaking.)

Today I m sampling Cornish Yarg, which is perhaps one of the best cheese names yet.  Although you could understandably assume that this was an ancient Cornish name and cheese, actually, it’s a newish cheese from Britain,  invented in the 1970’s by the Gray family.  Guess what Gray is backwards?  Yarg.  Oh these jokers! This cheese was specifically created to try to capture a Cornish character in cheese, and bring back a type of cheese no longer in production.  The makers actually reached back to a thirteenth century cheese recipe to make yarg-it’s kind of a hybrid cheddar and  Caerphilly, wrapped in nettles.   Truly, nettle wrapped cheese isn’t new either, it’s been around in one form or another since the 16th century. This organic Saran wrapping of cheese all but died out during the last century, so although  it is a new cheese, it’s also a taste of the past.

This cheese is extremely cool looking as it’s wrapped in nettles before maturing.  The nettles form a kind of leafy coating on the cheese.    Nettles are actually quite a nutrient rich food, when we were hippies we used to eat them all the time, and I still do get a hankering from them from time to time. I am pleased to see that both my love of nettles and cheese might be fulfilled simultaneously! Apparently the nettles actually have an integral role here, acting as a preservative and also imparting their nettle taste.  This cheese is also sprayed with a mould on the surface and I suspect that this, just as much as the nettles might have something to do with the taste.  The nettles are gathered from their local area farms and hedgerows throughout the year and then frozen in preparation for the wrapping of the cheese.  They also make a garlic version wrapped in garlic leaves.  Don’t freak out, the freezing kills all the sting!

The Lynher dairies are the  only makers of this cheese, it is only made in Cornwall and from the milk of Friesen cows.  Despite this limited production, it’s a popular cheese with fans around the world. Yarg is a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese that is semi-hard and crumbly, it’s a young cheese aged from 3 weeks to 2 months only. The dairy has its own website http://www.lynherdairies.co.uk/ where it introduces its cows by name stating , “meet our team.”  Sweet. These cows are grass-fed only and graze right alongside the dairy that makes the cheese, no transportation costs here. These folks look pretty organized, they even have a visitor centre and a great website explaining the cheese making step by step-and refreshingly, in English!

My little slice of Cornish Yarg has suffered in travelling, but it’s not the poor cheeses fault.  It’s really crumbled apart.  The nettle wrap is there, but I don’t think I’m going to eat it after hearing it is sprayed with mould, I mean, I’m an open-minded girl, but that crosses the line for me.  It’s a very white cheese and it actually smells very much like feet.  I know I have said cheese smells foot-like before, but this one actually and truly smells like a teenage gym sock  collection.  I’m a little surprised at such a gnarly smell in  a dry cheese matured somewhere for only 3 weeks to two months. It seems a little out of place.

Here goes…

Well the smell is definitely bigger than the bite.  It’s actually relatively mild, tangy and salty. It’s a benign little cheese, especially after all that reek and nettle.  It’s overly salty for me, with no hint of sweet or of ammonia, or of nettles for that matter, which is a shame.  It’s really just a little salty crumbly footy thing.  The texture reminds me of the Keen’s cheddar, that crumbly hard cheese mouth feel that’s quite nice, but a bit of a challenge to think of serving to guests-a hard cheese that crumbles needs to be thought out.  While I do appreciate the look and the idea of this cheese, it’s not doing much for me-it’s the taste in the end-a  little insipid, and just not enough “wow” for me to purchase it again.

Day 55-Stinking Bishop

You didn’t actually think I would miss reviewing cheese today, just because it’s Christmas, did you?  Incidentally, Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday Sophie-my daughter is 15 today.  Yes, poor planning, in terms of arrival, but a lovely child nonetheless. I’m in Powell River at my mom’s this morning, so I am crossing fingers that all technology will come together and that this post will work!

Today’s cheese is the only one in my larder whose name resembles anything to do with Christmas, so with tongue firmly in cheek, I present to you, Stinking Bishop.  Stinking Bishop is a pasteurized washed rind cow cheese from England.  It’s made only by the Martell family at their farm-Laurel farm, and is made only from the milk of their Gloucester cows- a rare breed of cattle that this family basically brought back from the verge of extinction, specifically to make this cheese.  In fact, the making of Stinking Bishop was initially a publicity ploy for Gloucester cattle, and wasn’t really about the cheese itself.

Stinking Bishop is a smelly little celebrity.  The 2005 Oscar-winning “Curse of the Were-Rabbit-Wallace and Gromit” -an animated film-used this cheese as a sort of smelling salt at the end to revive one of the characters back from death.  Apparently, the demand for Stinking Bishop went up by 500% after this film was released, which just goes to show that people are weird.  Stinking Bishop was also reviewed on “Bizarre Foods” a show in which the host travels the world sampling nasties and proclaiming them, “delicious!”  Really, this little cheese made it onto Bizarre Foods?  Must have been a slow week.

Stinking Bishop is said to resemble a munster cheese, and has also been compared to Epoisses, the king of Cheese, thus I’m pretty excited to taste it-loving my experiences with both of these deliciously nasty little numbers.   Although it’s only been around since the 1970’s, a cheese very much like it was  traditionally made by Cistercian monks in the area.  This raunchy little cheese actually does stink-how refreshing that it embraces its odour! The smell comes from the washing of the rind in “Perry” an alcoholic beverage made from the local Stinking Bishop Pear.  The little Perry cheese bath happens about once every 4 weeks during the affinage before salt is applied to the rind at the finish.

Alas, much to my chagrin, there was no actual Bishop that stank and ate cheese.  The pear and the cheese are actually named after a Mr. Bishop, who originally bred the pears for the Perry beverage, but had a notoriously stinking temperament.  He legendarily shot his kettle for not heating his water for tea fast enough.  No actual Bishops were involved.  Sigh.

My little wedge of Stinking Bishop sits here minding its own business on my desk.  The rind is orange, and the interior paste is quite creamy colored, with a speckle of holes (eyes.)  It’s a soft looking cheese, but it’s not oozing or falling apart.  It really does reek, it’s that full teenage-goat-boy-sock-underwear-barn thing, although–in a sort of wholesome way.  It doesn’t smell sinister or medicinal, it’s owning its stench. It beseeches me to sample it.

Here goes…

Umm, yuck.  That’s a shocker.  First, you know how they say that stinky cheese doesn’t taste as bad as it smells-in this case, that is patently incorrect.  In fact, Stinking Bishop tastes worse than it smells. Far worse. The taste is just acrid and spoiled, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.  I say this as a person who enjoys  raunch, and a good hit of ammonia in my cheese, but this one is either rotten, or it’s supposed to be this way.  Either way, I’m not eating anymore-and that’s a first.  The texture was also off putting-strangely foamy and squelchy for a washed rind cheese.  It also has a strange taste of apsaragus, like the cows broke into a patch and were then milked. Heinous! Man, this is a nasty cheese, I can’t imagine a world in which someone would actually enjoy eating it. OK, I get it, this is a “Bizarre Food,” because anyone eating it for pleasure is patently bizarre.

Well here it is, day 55 and my first cheese I seriously dislike and would never, ever, ever eat again.  Never. Well, maybe if I needed to revive someone from the dead.  Suddenly, that’s all sort of making sense.

Merry Christmas from “My Blog of Cheese!”