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.
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.