As I get closer to finishing my 100 day epic journey of cheese, I grow increasingly nervous about which cheeses I review. There’s just so much freaking great cheese out there, what’s a girl to do? I find myself being more drawn to local cheese. With few exceptions, it seems like great cheese can be made just about anywhere. It’s a recipe- you see-it’s not reinvented every batch. There’s something very appealing to me about eating Canadian cheese. It’s not just patriotism in the form of fromage, it’s appreciating the local twist on a universally acknowledged great cheese.
Le Blackburn is one such cheese. This time a local twist on an old-schoool cheddar. Le Blackburn is an eponymous cheese made by the Blackburn Fromagerie in Jonquière-a city of 51,000 people located 3 hours north of Quebec City on the Saguenay River. I have mentioned the Blackburn fromagerie in a previous review because of my favourite milk fact: the milk comes directly to the fromagerie from the Blackburn family farm via underground pipes which run below the street. I am entranced by this fact. It doesn’t even really matter how the cheese tastes to me now.
The milk for Le Blackburn comes from the farm’s herd of Holstein cows. So everything happens here on the farm, from cow to completed cheese. Like the Chevre Noir we discussed yesterday, Le Blackburn is made from thermalized milk. It’s not quite pasteurized and not quite raw, and thus retains characteristics of raw and pasteurized milk-hopefully the best of both. I’m not sure what this means if you are pregnant and needing to be careful of raw milk-I would probably give the thermalized cheese a pass if I was concerned.
The Blackburn family has lived and farmed this farm for four generations but the cheese-making is relatively new-only getting up and running in 2006. Despite its young age, Blackburn has done extremely well. This fromagerie also makes Le Mont Jacob which won the 2011 Canadian grand prix in the washed rind category. Le Blackburn and Le Mont Jacob are complimentary cheeses, Le Mont Jacob is a washed rind cheese, and can be turned over quickly for sale, while Le Blackburn is an aged cheese that needs time to get ready for the party.
Le Blackburn is a pressed firm-bodied cheese. After the curd is made, it is pressed to expel the whey and then milled and salted again. This is the same technique used with cheddar before modern cheddaring techniques came into being. It gives Le Blackburn cheese that same crumbly and cheddary texture. After being formed and pressed the cheese then mellows out in its own affinage room for at least 6 months, with a frequent wash of its rind to keep the bacterial growth in check.
My slice of Le Blackburn has been waiting patiently beside me as I write. It does look like a cheddar to me, it reminds me of Avonlea cheddar, except there’s no linen bandage to remove, and no buttered rind-pity! It’s a firm looking cheese with a yellow paste that’s already crumbling a little-and I haven’t even touched it, I swear. The rind is a thin natural brown. The smell is very mild, barely discernable.
Mmmm, it is a yummy little cheeese once you get into it. I wasn’t sure for the first couple of bites-the taste is so mild I was having a challenge even registering it, but then it crept up on me. It’s a safe cheese, you could feed this one to anyone, even fussy children. It’s a little sharp, but not overly so. It keeps all the tasting notes in balance and is a perfectly respectable cheese. There’s the slightest hint of a stronger taste as you get near the rind that’s yummy and a little mushroomy, but it’s only at the rind mark, not in the paste. The texture is smooth, it melts on the palate, there is no crunch.
Here’s the thing-and I don’t want to be mean-but this cheese is boring to me. Yawn. It’s just another cheddar, and not even a spectacular one. If I’m going to eat a cheddar I want it to have zing. I want to remove buttered linens. I want there to be a mould taste as I approach the rind. I’m looking for a party! Le Blackburn, although good is perhaps a little too good for me. Get back in the cave for another year, and then let’s talk, shall we dear? If I’m going to eat cheese-and I am going to eat cheese-I’m looking for a good time and this one’s just a little too well-behaved for me.